November 22, 2006
. . . But somebody's got to do it
Der Spiegel carries a slideshow of photos of assassinated Lebanese Industry Minister Pierre Gemayal. He is seen in turn with various members of his family, including his wife, when they were married.
The Washington Post reports the details of Gemayal's death.
Gemayel, a 34-year-old father of two and an up-and-coming politician, was killed when his car was ambushed by men from one or two cars that collided with it in the suburban neighborhood of Jdeideh. At least three gunmen opened fire with automatic weapons equipped with silencers, hitting him in the head and chest, officials said. Television footage showed the tinted driver's-side window pocked with at least eight shots and the glass on the passenger's side shattered. The silver sedan's hood was crumpled from the collision.
Doctors said Gemayel was dead when he arrived at the hospital, and his bodyguard later succumbed to his wounds.
Is this a consolidation or an overextension? Iran announces it is seeking a new set of centrifuges. Syria tells James Baker it'll help in Iraq in exchange for the Golan Heights. Iran invites Iraq and Syria to a conference. Syria and Iraq re-establish diplomatic ties. Syria offs another prominent Lebanese politician.
Are Syria and Iran overplaying their hands? Have the carefully leaked deliberations of the Iraq Study Group been so much theater, meant to force an over-reaction? Victor Davis Hanson wrote in his book The Soul of Battle that upon hearing of the German offensive that came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge, Patton's inclination was to let the Germans go as far west as they could, and then take his Third Army and cut off their rear, blocking their retreat.
Patton, of course, knew from his initial conversation with Bradley that he would be under orders to go north, not to continue east: "That's too daring for them. My guess is that our offensive will be called off and we will have to go up there and save their hides."
Tony Blankley, writing at RealClearPolitics, says this:
In fact, even those Americans who today can't wait to end our involvement in the "hopeless" war in Iraq will -- when the consequences of our irresponsibility becomes manifest -- join the chorus of outrage.Jules Crittenden writes that "It's a dirty job . . .
Expedient Washington politicians, take note: Your public is fickle. They may cheer your decision today to get out of Iraq but vote you out of office tomorrow when they don't like the results . . .
Iran has been our persistent enemy for 27 years -- Syria longer. They may well be glad to give us cover while we retreat, but that would merely be an exercise in slightly delayed gratification, not self-denial, let alone benignity. So long as Iran is ruled by its current radical Shi'a theocracy, she will be vigorously and violently undercutting any potentially positive, peaceful forces in the region -- and is already triggering a prolonged clash with the terrified Sunni nations. Our absence from the region will only make matters far worse.
We need to start undermining by all methods available that dangerous Iranian regime -- as the Iranian people, free to express and implement their own opinions and policies, are our greatest natural allies in the Muslim Middle East.
We have only two choices: Get out and let the ensuing Middle East firestorm enflame the wider world; or, stay and with shrewder policies and growing material strength manage and contain the danger. [emphasis added]
This is the thing about dirty jobs that need to be done. They can only be ignored or left half-done for so long . . .But will any of this happen? What prevents it from happening right now? It is not a lack of resources. It is only a perception that all is lost, held by a large part of the political class. Fortunately, they are wrong. Sadly, they don't know it.
This is why the current move to restrain the militias in Baghdad must be stepped up. This is why the calls for more troops there must be heeded. This is why the United States must pursue and destroy militias there ruthlessly and in force.
This is why these regimes need to know that their missteps will cost them, and that their own infrastructure, seats of power and persons are not immune from our threat of force as long as they abet murder, spread instability through the region, and seek weapons of mass destruction.
Belmont Club takes the pessimistic argument: The Rout Continues:
The most comical aspect of this whole rout is the way the diplomats will continue to prepare for the big meeting with Syria and Iran to broker a regional peace, something they believe "only a Superpower" can achieve. Alas, the habits of self-importance die hard. The countries are already making their own arrangements with the new victors, because those countries realize better than Barack Obama that you cannot charge a price for what you have already given away. And what will come of it all won't be peace. It will be war on a scale that will either draw America back into a larger cauldron or send it scurrying away behind whatever line of defense it thinks it has the will to hold. More than 60 years ago, Winston Churchill told the appeasers they had a choice between war and dishonor. They had chosen dishonor, and added that now they would have both war and dishonor.
If Bush lied and people died, then Pierre Gamayel is probably dead today because Nancy Pelosi told the truth last week: Bringing the war to an end is my highest priority as Speaker. James Baker didn't stage that.
November 20, 2006
I'm not asking you to ask, I'm telling you to listen
Iran judges itself the victor in the Iraq war. It is now inviting Syria and Iraq to Tehran for a conference.
Iran has invited the Iraqi and Syrian presidents to Tehran for a weekend summit with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to hash out ways to cooperate in curbing the runaway violence that has taken Iraq to the verge of civil war and threatens to spread through the region, four key lawmakers told The Associated Press on Monday.
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has accepted the invitation and will fly to the Iranian capital Saturday, a close parliamentary associate said.
The Iranian diplomatic gambit appeared designed to upstage expected moves from Washington to include Syria and Iran in a wider regional effort to clamp off violence in Iraq, where more civilians have been killed in the first 20 days of November than in any other month since the AP began tallying the figures in April 2005.
The Iranian move was also a display of its increasingly muscular role in the Middle East, where it already has established deep influence over Syria and Lebanon.
"All three countries intend to hold a three-way summit among Iraq, Iran and Syria to discuss the security situation and the repercussions for stability of the region," said Ali al-Adeeb, a lawmaker of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party and a close aide to the prime minister.
What do victors do next? They consolidate their gains. Belmont Club notes:
It was Mark Steyn who said that however evasively the Democratic party phrased it, the platform upon which they ran would be understood by its true name throughout the Middle East. George Packer, writing in the New Republic, said that now was the time to make arrangements to evacuate the thousands of Iraqis who believed in America; and that those Iraqis were even now making deals with whoever they thought would be in charge -- after the policy with the unstated name was implemented -- in order to survive.What will the conversations be like in Tehran? Hard to say, but one thing is sure: Tehran won't be asking for anything, but dictating terms instead. After the meeting, no one should be surprised at what comes next. Talabani might even change his tune as to how many US troops are needed for how long.
But the Iranians can hardly contain their glee. They know what last elections meant; and so do Iraq and Syria. There may be no need to wait for the Baker report. It is being overtaken by events.
Phase One of the "Global War on Terror" is over. It has seen two vicious regimes destroyed in the Middle East. Thousands of Al Qaeda operatives have been killed or captured. A fledgling democracy grips power by its fingernails in Iraq. Iran is emboldened and is now the dominant power in the region. A new regional war looms around the periphery of Israel and another is beginning around the periphery of Somalila. Pakistan has ceded territory to the Taliban in Waziristan. The US military now has hundreds of thousands of battle-hardened veterans.
Writing in the Weekly Standard of his latest trip to Ramadi, Michael Fumento concludes thus:
People always ask how the Iraqis feel about Americans and the war in general. I respond that they just tell you what they think will prove advantageous to them, a combination of complaints and praise for Ameriki (America). Non-embedded American reporters run into the same thing. I asked one of the north Ramadi farmers through the translator if he thinks Ramadi is getting safer. He starts out with a few complaints, such as lack of water from the Euphrates for his fields because of rationing, and then tells me: "But safety is 100 percent better now that the Americans have come along." Baloney. Things got a lot more dangerous when we first came along. They may or may not be safer now than a year ago, but this guy isn't going to tell me. None of them will tell me.There are pluses and minuses. The war is not over, but the first part of it is largely ended. It might be presumptuous to end a chapter now, but the largest use of US force has been in Iraq, and that enterprise is now destined to wither away in one form or another. It's hard to know what comes next: an interlude, or Phase Two. The previous post The Golden Mean argued that those who favor attacking Iran are now largely in the wilderness. It's hard to know if there will even be a Phase Two. But for now, the last page has been turned and it will be time to wait for the sequel in whatever form it takes.
Soldiers also give different accounts of the extent of progress in Ramadi. A Cougar driver told me nothing had changed since his last deployment, yet the very fact that he was driving into Ramadi in a convoy of just four trucks indicated otherwise. Another told me Ramadi is now "a thousand times better." Ultimately each was simply another blind man feeling his part of the elephant. With my three embeds in Anbar, I'd like to believe I've felt quite a few parts of the elephant.
Depressed? No. Thinking we won't eventually win? Not at all. Just being realistic. They don't call it a "long war" for nothing.
The Golden Mean
Pundits and armcharists have struggled for months to articulate a military strategy vis a vis Iran that fits the following constraints: the nuclear program must be stopped; there can be no invasion; and if possible the regime should be removed.
Perhaps Arthur Herman has discovered the solution to this evasive strategic proof . . .
November 15, 2006
Iraq The Model on the Ministry of Education kidnappings
Iraq the Model believes that Iran was behind yesterday's brazen kidnapping of dozens of Iraqi Ministry of Education employees:
The mass abduction that shocked Baghdad yesterday was intended to be a clear message from Tehran-through its surrogates in Baghdad-to anyone who thinks productive dialogue with the Islamic republic over Iraq and Middle East peace is a possible option.
The operation was a show of victory and it was so smooth and perfect that neither the MNF nor the Iraqi military could do a thing to stop it.
And today the show continues with the assassination of the colonel who's in charge of internal investigation in the department of national police, also known as the police commandos, one day after an investigation was ordered.
Perhaps choosing a ministry like the higher education (which belongs to the Sunni Accord Front) is also a warning message to Sunni politicians who are preparing to send a delegation to Washington especially that the Accord bloc announced recently that they were looking forward to "clear the misunderstanding and mistrust" between them and the US administration to search for solutions for the situation in Iraq.
November 2, 2006
The Final Surprise: El-Baradei Strikes Again
The New York has launched its final, pre-weekend October Surprise of the silly season. An article entitled U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Guide has just been posted on its site, and is getting the all caps, red text treatment from the Drudge Report. The article alleges that the US archive of seized Iraqi documents, released on the internet in March of 2006, contained some documents with detailed plans for the construction of nuclear weapons.
The documents, roughly a dozen in number, contain charts, diagrams, equations and lengthy narratives about bomb building that nuclear experts who have viewed them say go beyond what is available on the Internet and in other public forums. For instance, the papers give detailed information on how to build nuclear firing circuits and triggering explosives, as well as the radioactive cores of atom bombs.The Times is careful to note that these plans were from before the first Gulf War.
But in recent weeks, the site has posted some documents that weapons experts say are a danger themselves: detailed accounts of Iraq’s secret nuclear research before the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The documents, the experts say, constitute a basic guide to building an atom bomb.The alarm was raised by the IAEA, according to the Times.
In September, the Web site began posting the nuclear documents, and some soon raised concerns. On Sept. 12, it posted a document it called “Progress of Iraqi nuclear program circa 1995.” That description is potentially misleading since the research occurred years earlier.
The Iraqi document is marked “Draft FFCD Version 3 (20.12.95),” meaning it was preparatory for the “Full, Final, Complete Disclosure” that Iraq made to United Nations inspectors in March 1996. The document carries three diagrams showing cross sections of bomb cores, and their diameters.
On Sept. 20, the site posted a much larger document, “Summary of technical achievements of Iraq’s former nuclear program.” It runs to 51 pages, 18 focusing on the development of Iraq’s bomb design. Topics included physical theory, the atomic core and high-explosive experiments. By early October, diplomats and officials said, United Nations arms inspectors in New York and their counterparts in Vienna were alarmed and discussing what to do.
The diplomats "were alarmed and discussing what to do." It seems obvious, does it not, to pick up the phone and call your nearest American colleague and tell him he's got an anarchist's cookbook up on his internet? Certainly no government official who expects to keep his job would sit on such information? If, as the Times notes, the documents in question were only a dozen or so in number, then would it not take the retasking of a couple of translators and perhaps 6 hours of time from a nuclear physicist to determine if the documents in question are what the diplomats suspected them to be?
Or does one sit on this information for a few weeks, instead picking up the phone to the New York Times, and craft yet another October Surprise?
It's not impossible. In fact, it happened before -- two years ago, with the same agency! The IAEA, that is. The IAEA played a big part in the last October Surprise by the New York Times -- the aptly named Al Qaqaa story, now safely ensconced behind the TimesSelect firewall. The abstract notes, "International Atomic Energy Agency warned of danger of these explosives before war . . ."
There is one other aspect of the Times story that seems strange. The documents in question are described by -- surprise! -- an anonymous intelligence official, like this:
A senior American intelligence official who deals routinely with atomic issues said the documents showed “where the Iraqis failed and how to get around the failures.” The documents, he added, could perhaps help Iran or other nations making a serious effort to develop nuclear arms, but probably not terrorists or poorly equipped states. The official, who requested anonymity because of his agency’s rules against public comment, called the papers “a road map that helps you get from point A to point B, but only if you already have a car.”Doesn't this buttress the argument that Saddam could easily have restarted his nuclear weapons program if the sanctions regime collapsed? If the Arabic documents can show Iran's scientists how to get around failures, then surely they could show Iraq's?
Another question: why were the nuke documents only begun to be released in September and earlier October? Where were they until then?
Tomorrow will be yet another interesting day in the silly season.
October 24, 2006
A Simple Plan
The New Media Journal carries a fictional bit of prognostication by one Raymond S. Kraft. It is the story of a surprise nuclear attack on the United States, performed with aplomb by Iran and North Korea [via Rocket's Brain Trust].
At 0723 Hawaii time on the 67th Anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack three old fishing trawlers, about 100 miles apart, and each about 300 miles off the east coast, launched six small cruise missiles from launch tubes that could be dismantled and stored in the holds under ice, or fish, and set up in less than an hour. The missiles were launched at precisely one minute intervals. As soon as each boat had launched its pair, the skeleton crew began to abandon ship into a fast rubber inflatable. The captain was last off, and just before going overboard started the timer on the scuttling charges. Fifteen minutes later and ten miles away, each crew was going up the nets into a small freighter or tanker of Moroccan or Liberian registry, where each man was issued new identification as ship's crew. The rubber inflatables were shot and sunk, and just about then charges in the bilges of each of the three trawlers blew the hulls out, and they sank with no one on board and no distress signals in less than two minutes.Commentary
The missiles had been built in a joint operation by North Korea and Iran, and tested in Iran, so they would not have to overfly any other country. The small nuclear warheads had only been tested deep underground. The GPS guidance and detonating systems had worked perfectly, after a few corrections. They flew fifty feet above sea level, and 500 feet above ground level on the last leg of the trip, using computers and terrain data modified from open market technology and flight directors, autopilots, adapted from commercial aviation units. They would adjust speed to arrive on target at specific times and altitudes, and detonate upon reaching the programmed GPS coordinates. They were not as adaptable and intelligent as American cruise missiles, but they did not need to be. Not for this mission.
I'm unfamiliar with Mr. Kraft's work, but here he succeeds in rapidly painting a scenario that is entirely plausible. The more interesting questions are those it merely implies.
September 30, 2006
One of the hallmarks of maneuver warfare as it has been conceived in the Marine Corps is the use of combined arms. "Combined arms" refers to the use of various weapons systems in concert, such that each reinforces the weaknesses of the other. The doctrinal definition is this:
Combined arms is the full integration of arms in such a way that to counteract one, the enemy must become more vulnerable to another. We pose the enemy not just with a problem, but with a dilemma -- a no-win situation. [from Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication 1, Warfighting]There's no reason to think that this doctrine couldn't be articulated at the national level as well. Rather than confining it to the realm of military strategy and the use of force, why not include all the elements of national power -- diplomatic, economic, informational, military, etc -- and force them to work in concert toward a common goal? This may be an ideal, but it is one at which the US does not perform so well. The primary reason is the way our foreign policy bureaucracy operates: there is little in the way of the kind of unity of command necessary for an individual decision-maker to muster all elements to work in concert.
But not so in Iran, warns Robert Kaplan:
September 25, 2006
David Frum and Containment
David Frum, former speechwriter for the Bush Administration, has made an argument in two separate places that the Bush team is not preparing at all to stop Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, and is instead "acquiescing" to their desires.
Frum first made the case last week in his blog at National Review:
1) Any prudent war planner has to assume that the rulers of Iran will strike back . . .Then he seconded these emotions with a piece in Canada's National Post (via AEI), arguing that the Bush Administration is preparing for a campaign of containment against Iran:
2) Despite the accusations of America's critics, the United States does not bomb other countries out of a clear blue sky . . .
3) Nor has there been diplomacy outside the UN . . .
4) Finally, through Washington there echoes the hushed sound of back doors being opened to quiet negotiations . . .
Iran is going nuclear. Sanctions will not be imposed. The U.S. hesitates to strike. And the Bush administration's new big idea will not work. Brace yourselves.
In his post at NRO, Frum mentions that perhaps the real goal is a deal. If this is true, then the Bush administration can't be faulted for its pursuit, no matter how unlikely it seems. For while there is a certain clamoring in the right for action against Iran, there is at the same time little substantive discussion of the fact that such action will be the beginning of what could be a very large war, and while justified and perhaps necessary, it will not be clean and simple by any means. If a favorable outcome -- a non-nuclear Iran -- can be obtained without the use of force, then by all means, let's do it.
But if not, then we are in for a very interesting next few years, as a nuclear Iran is a prospect no sane and serious individual should be willing to entertain lightly.
What might a policy of "containment" look like vs Iran? A glimpse was perhaps provided earlier this year in an article in the Times of London on the Proliferation Security Initiative:
A PROGRAMME of covert action against nuclear and missile traffic to North Korea and Iran is to be intensified after last week’s missile tests by the North Korean regime.From the perspective painted here, the Proliferation Security Initiative seems to be two things: both a good picture of what "containment" against another rogue nuclear power resembles, and a race against the clock to make sure that it does not sell or pass nuclear material to other states or non-states.
Intelligence agencies, navies and air forces from at least 13 nations are quietly co-operating in a “secret war” against Pyongyang and Tehran.
It has so far involved interceptions of North Korean ships at sea, US agents prowling the waterfronts in Taiwan, multinational naval and air surveillance missions out of Singapore, investigators poring over the books of dubious banks in the former Portuguese colony of Macau and a fleet of planes and ships eavesdropping on the “hermit kingdom” in the waters north of Japan . . .
The United States and its allies are now preoccupied by what Kim might do with the trump card in his arsenal — his stockpile of plutonium for nuclear bombs.
“The real danger is that the North Koreans could sell their plutonium to another rogue state — read Iran — or to terrorists,” said a western diplomat who has served in Pyongyang. American officials fear Iran is negotiating to buy plutonium from North Korea in a move that would confound the international effort to stop Tehran’s nuclear weapons programme.
The prospect of such a sale is “the next big thing”, said a western diplomat involved with the issue. The White House commissioned an intelligence study on the risk last December but drew no firm conclusions.
Iran is a much larger and more powerful entity than North Korea, and more strategically located to boot. If the picture above is an accurate portrayal of a containment strategy, one must ask how much more difficult such a strategy would be if aimed at Iran.
Furthermore, one must not be too hasty in comparing such strategies to those used against the Soviet Union. A central part of that doctrine, as we all know, was mutually-assured destruction. Attack us and we will destroy you, though we may well be destroyed in the process, to paraphrase.
Is it possible some new doctrine of offensive use of nuclear weapons might apply to situations in which states are likely to sell nuclear materials or pass them to proxies? How might such a doctrine be formulated? If containment is truly to be the policy of the US, then it should have such a strict expression of offensive capability as one of its key platforms.
Such are the dilemmas we'll be facing if Iran becomes a nuclear power.
September 15, 2006
Interesting New Contracts at Intrade
In the past few days, the online prediction market Intrade has doubled its number of contracts for both US or Israeli strikes against Iran and for the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden. The actual contracts can't be pointed to, so you'll have to go there and poke around a bit to find them.
This probably reflects a desire on the part of the Intrade folks to keep on top of these events, rather than any unusual movements in those markets.
September 7, 2006
Dispatches from the Defense Forum
The Defense Forum of 2006 was an outstanding event and I'd like to thank the US Naval Institute and Marine Corps Association for making it possible for me to attend.
If any Loyal Readers are interested, here are the pieces I wrote from the conference for Pajamas Media:
First Dispatch: about the remarks of Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Giambastiani.
Second Dispatch: about a panel on the progress of the Long War.
The Third Dispatch discusses both the remarks of Tom Ricks, and a panel on the Quadrennial Defense Review.
The final dispatch recounts the final panel, about lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan.
There's lots of good stuff in there!
September 4, 2006
Defense Forum Washington 2006
Tomorrow (Tuesday the 5th), I'll be attending the Defense Forum in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Marine Corps Association and the US Naval Institute, two outstanding professional organizations for the Naval services.
While there, I'll be sending email dispatches throughout the day to Pajamas Media, so look for updates on their homepage.
The schedule of events looks really interesting and I'm especially looking forward to the panels entitled "The Long War: Where Are We Now?" and "Fighting on the Terrorists’ Turf: Lessons Learned in Iraq & Afghanistan and the Gap Between Expectations and Realities".
If there's a chance during the panel discussions, I'll be sure to ask a question or two from the back of the room. If any readers have questions you'd like me to try to address, please send them on to my email account, listed in the sidebar to the right.
I'll be attempting to file my dispatches while using my Motorola RAZR phone in a modem capacity for my laptop. There's a backup if it doesn't work, but it will be pretty cool if it does!
August 31, 2006
Energy Followup Post
So there was quite a bit of great discussion in the two threads on Energy Independence in the last couple of weeks. (See here and here.) Two more thoughts. First, frequent commenter "Papa Ray" sent me this link: China nomads on energy's cutting edge, which is quite an interesting story. Frequent readers may know that I have a burning desire to go to Mongolia one day (at least I think I've mentioned that before). I've often wondered if the nomads there would do well with some sort of rugged electrical production system. Maybe something like this: SkyBuilt Power.
And also, a Loyal Reader sent this comment:
Let's get a little creative in our quest to reduce our consumption of
imported petroleum. Use tactics that cost little or nothing.
If every job that could be accomplished by telecommuting were to be
for 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 days a week, we'd reduce our consumption
overnight. A distributed workforce is a good thing, in wartime and
For those who can't telecommute, how about changing the workweek? Four
10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days would reduce consumption by up
Road tolls can be increased without taxing gas, increasing car-pooling.
Right turn-on-red, smart traffic signals, enforcement of pedestrian
scofflaws and a myriad other options, in combination could reduce
consumption immediately, by more than 25%, with very small impact on
No Manhattan Project (i.e., huge waste of taxpayers' funds) necessary.
Change the rules of the game.
Any thoughts, readers?
August 30, 2006
America's Schizophrenic View of Warfare
I've written an article for TCSDaily entitled Bipolar Disorder: America's Schizophrenic View of Warfare. It argues that Americans tend to view total war as positive, and counterinsurgencies as negative, rather than merely seeing them as different kinds of conflict. Go see for yourself!
August 15, 2006
TCSDaily Article: Unfrozen Caveman Voter
I've written another piece for TCSDaily entitled, "Unfrozen Caveman Voter." Go check it out and ask yourself: are you part of the caveman demographic?
July 31, 2006
Kissinger on Iran
Henry Kissinger's op-ed in today's Washington Post requires careful examination.
Let's take a close reading of The Next Steps With Iran:
The world's attention is focused on the fighting in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, but the context leads inevitably back to Iran. Unfortunately, the diplomacy dealing with that issue is constantly outstripped by events. While explosives are raining on Lebanese and Israeli towns and Israel reclaims portions of Gaza, the proposal to Iran in May by the so-called Six (the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China) for negotiations on its nuclear weapons program still awaits an answer. It's possible that Tehran reads the almost pleading tone of some communications addressed to it as a sign of weakness and irresolution. Or perhaps the violence in Lebanon has produced second thoughts among the mullahs about the risks of courting and triggering crisis.Unless Israel resumes its offensive against Hezbollah, the mullahs have little reason for second thoughts about provoking conflict because the war will have finished in Hezbollah's favor. Hezbollah's centers of gravity are either its support from Iran and Syria, or its masterful use of the international media to rally world opinion against Israel. Whichever it is, if it's not both, the Israelis have yet to find a critical vulnerability to attack either of those two strengths. Attriting Hez forces buys time for a little peace in the future, but it does not solve any problems in the long term. It looks as though Israel is going to widen its ground offensive. We'll see what happens next . . .
However the tea leaves are read, the current Near Eastern upheaval could become a turning point. Iran may come to appreciate the law of unintended consequences.Is this a reference to a defeat for Hezbollah? Perhaps.
For their part, the Six can no longer avoid dealing with the twin challenges that Iran poses. On the one hand, the quest for nuclear weapons represents Iran's reach for modernity via the power symbol of the modern state; at the same time, this claim is put forward by a fervent kind of religious extremism that has kept the Muslim Middle East unmodernized for centuries. This conundrum can be solved without conflict only if Iran adopts a modernism consistent with international order and a view of Islam compatible with peaceful coexistence.Thank goodness Kissinger doesn't say the only other way the conundrum can be solved without conflict: for the world to just accept a nuclear Iran. Finally, someone sane in the diplomatic community!
Heretofore the Six have been vague about their response to an Iranian refusal to negotiate, except for unspecific threats of sanctions through the United Nations Security Council. But if a deadlock between strained forbearance by the Six and taunting invective from the Iranian president leads to de facto acquiescence in the Iranian nuclear program, prospects for multilateral international order will dim everywhere. If the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany are unable jointly to achieve goals to which they have publicly committed themselves, every country, especially those composing the Six, will face growing threats, be they increased domestic pressure from radical Islamic groups, terrorist acts or the nearly inevitable conflagrations sparked by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.This is the gut check for the world. As much as an encouragement of iran's nuclear ambitions by other states may serve to promote their interests in checking US power, ultimately, if Iran proliferates, then the international system will be broken, perhaps beyond repair. And the United Nations will become even more of a laughingstock than it is now. Previous posts have discussed the issue of Iranian proliferation from the standpoint of stability in the international system (here and here). Iran may well be the tipping point in nuclear proliferation in the world. Not only would the likelihood of further proliferation by Egypt, Turkey, or Saudi Arabia be increased dramatically, but the case of Iran is unique in that the series of events comprising Iranian proliferation offer a direct challenge to the UN and the system of nonproliferation. Whereas Pakistan and India pursued their programs clandestinely, and successfully so, and Israel is still technically an undeclared nuclear power, Iran's cover was blown in 2003 by an opposition group, thus creating a clear case where the nonproliferation regime must be tested in its ability to dissuade a state from aquiring nuclear weapons. Iraq may have involved horrendous lapses in intelligence, but one thing is certain for the moment: Iraq currently has no nuclear weapons or programs to produce them. If the international security system cannot deter Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, then its credibility will be completely destroyed, and its legitimacy nil. Kissinger is right: world order will decrease, conflicts will multiply, and what he doesn't explicitly say will also be proved true: the chances of a nuclear exchange or a nuclear crisis will increase dramatically as well. These are not conditions that will appear overnight, but over an intermediate period. The morning after an Iranian weapons test will not mark the end of the current system of international security, but it will mark the beginning of the end. Kissinger next offers a quick primer in Diplomacy 101:
The analogy of such a disaster is not Munich, when the democracies yielded the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, but the response when Mussolini invaded Abyssinia. At Munich, the democracies thought that Hitler's demands were essentially justified by the principle of self-determination; they were repelled mostly by his methods. In the Abyssinian crisis, the nature of the challenge was uncontested. By a vast majority, the League of Nations voted to treat the Italian adventure as aggression and to impose sanctions. But they recoiled before the consequences of their insight and rejected an oil embargo, which Italy would have been unable to overcome. The league never recovered from that debacle. If the six-nation forums dealing with Iran and North Korea suffer comparable failures, the consequence will be a world of unchecked proliferation, not controlled by either governing principles or functioning institutions.
Diplomacy never operates in a vacuum. It persuades not by the eloquence of its practitioners but by assembling a balance of incentives and risks. Clausewitz's famous dictum that war is a continuation of diplomacy by other means defines both the challenge and the limits of diplomacy. War can impose submission; diplomacy needs to evoke consensus. Military success enables the victor in war to prescribe, at least for an interim period. Diplomatic success occurs when the principal parties are substantially satisfied; it creates -- or should strive to create -- common purposes, at least regarding the subject matter of the negotiation; otherwise no agreement lasts very long. The risk of war lies in exceeding objective limits; the bane of diplomacy is to substitute process for purpose. Diplomacy should not be confused with glibness. It is not an oratorical but a conceptual exercise. When it postures for domestic audiences, radical challenges are encouraged rather than overcome.The popular methods of portraying diplomacy include its being on the opposite end of a one-dimensional axis that includes military action on its far end, and of characterizing diplomatic initiatives as merely talk and not action. Such a view is unconstructive. Diplomacy is dealmaking, pure and simple. The tragedy perhaps is that so much of our recent dealmaking has seemed much more like concession-making alone. As Kissinger mentions, diplomacy is not rhetoric; the other side of the negotiating table will not be swayed by the eloquence of domestic speeches. Kissinger next spends two paragraphs comparing the current situation with that of the US and China in the 1970s. He concludes that they are dramatically different:
The challenge of the Iranian negotiation is far more complex. For two years before the opening to China, the two sides had engaged in subtle, reciprocal, symbolic and diplomatic actions to convey their intentions. In the process, they had tacitly achieved a parallel understanding of the international situation, and China opted for seeking to live in a cooperative world.Kissinger sees a window of opportunity for diplomatic action and it looks something like this: allow Israel to teach Hezbollah a significant lesson; quickly come to consensus among the Six; use the Israeli action to encourage realism among the Iranians, an attitude that would abandon their messianic religious idealism heretofore displayed in favor of seeking a deal. It's a tall order and my guess is the window won't be open long.
Nothing like that has occurred between Iran and the United States. There is not even an approximation of a comparable world view. Iran has reacted to the American offer to enter negotiations with taunts, and has inflamed tensions in the region. Even if the Hezbollah raids from Lebanon into Israel and the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers were not planned in Tehran, they would not have occurred had their perpetrators thought them inconsistent with Iranian strategy. In short, Iran has not yet made the choice of the world it seeks -- or it has made the wrong choice from the point of view of international stability. The crisis in Lebanon could mark a watershed if it confers a sense of urgency to the diplomacy of the Six and a note of realism to the attitudes in Tehran. [emphasis added]
Up to now Iran has been playing for time. The mullahs apparently seek to accumulate as much nuclear capability as possible so that, even were they to suspend enrichment, they would be in a position to use the threat of resuming their weapons effort as a means to enhance their clout in the region.Kissinger sees comprehensive sanctions as a necessity, and soon. And he encourages a process among the Six that will not necessitate 100% agreement or long pauses.
Given the pace of technology, patience can easily turn into evasion. The Six will have to decide how serious they will be in insisting on their convictions. Specifically, the Six will have to be prepared to act decisively before the process of technology makes the objective of stopping uranium enrichment irrelevant. Well before that point is reached, sanctions will have to be agreed on. To be effective, they must be comprehensive; halfhearted, symbolic measures combine the disadvantage of every course of action. Interallied consultations must avoid the hesitation that the League of Nations conveyed over Abyssinia. We must learn from the North Korean negotiations not to engage in a process involving long pauses to settle disagreements within the administration and within the negotiating group, while the other side adds to its nuclear potential. There is equal need, on the part of America's partners, for decisions permitting them to pursue a parallel course.
A suspension of enrichment of uranium should not be the end of the process. A next step should be the elaboration of a global system of nuclear enrichment to take place in designated centers around the world under international control -- as proposed for Iran by Russia. This would ease implications of discrimination against Iran and establish a pattern for the development of nuclear energy without a crisis with each entrant into the nuclear field.This seems like a fantastic idea if it can be accomplished in a verifiably safe fashion.
President Bush has announced America's willingness to participate in the discussions of the Six with Iran to prevent emergence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program. But it will not be possible to draw a line between nuclear negotiations and a comprehensive review of Iran's overall relations to the rest of the world.This is a point that many other commentators have made: while Iran's nuclear program is our paramount concern, there are a number of other issues that need addressing, any one of which would be bad enough on its own.
The legacy of the hostage crisis, the decades of isolation and the messianic aspect of the Iranian regime represent huge obstacles to such a diplomacy. If Tehran insists on combining the Persian imperial tradition with contemporary Islamic fervor, then a collision with America -- and, indeed, with its negotiating partners of the Six -- is unavoidable. Iran simply cannot be permitted to fulfill a dream of imperial rule in a region of such importance to the rest of the world.
At the same time, an Iran concentrating on the development of the talents of its people and the resources of its country should have nothing to fear from the United States. Hard as it is to imagine that Iran, under its present president, will participate in an effort that would require it to abandon its terrorist activities or its support for such instruments as Hezbollah, the recognition of this fact should emerge from the process of negotiation rather than being the basis for a refusal to negotiate. Such an approach would imply the redefinition of the objective of regime change, providing an opportunity for a genuine change in direction by Iran, whoever is in power.A good point: give the Iranians enough rope to hang themselves, then say diplomacy won't work. Don't just assume it won't. He may be referring to direct negotiations here.
It is important to express such a policy in precise objectives capable of transparent verification. A geopolitical dialogue is not a substitute for an early solution of the nuclear enrichment crisis. That must be addressed separately, rapidly and firmly. But a great deal depends on whether a strong stand on that issue is understood as the first step in the broader invitation to Iran to return to the wider world.Another good point: a policy of improving relations with the world should have identifiable and verfiable objectives.
In the end, the United States must be prepared to vindicate its efforts to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapons program. For that reason, America has an obligation to explore every honorable alternative.This final statement is where Kissinger shows he understands the game better than most of the denizens of Foggy Bottom ever will: "vindicating" US efforts implies efforts that have failed. And it refers to the use of force. Kissinger understands all too well the big stick that must be carried by the soft-spoken.
Altogether an excellent piece. Given the hyperbolic nature of the coverage of Israel's war with Hezbollah, Iran's nuke program has fallen by the wayside. Kissinger's piece could not have come at a better time. In summary: Iran is the real problem; the clock is ticking quickly; there's an opportunity; get after it. Wise words from an old man.
July 24, 2006
Gates of Vienna Symposium: After Hezbollah
Gates of Vienna is conducting a symposium as to what might be the end-state of the current war between Israel and Hezbollah. The assumption is the destruction, or severe defeat of Hezbollah. And then . . .
What happens next? What will the Middle East look like after Hizbullah?Attempts at prediction are a staple here at The Adventures of Chester. So far, previous posts have asked, "Will Israel be given the time it needs to reduce Hezbollah?" and "Will Israel widen the war to include Syria?" and those posts have answered Yes and No, respectively, in so many words.
What happens to Syria? What does Syria have besides Hizbullah? It’s got some of Saddam’s old WMDs, a lot of sand, and presumably some olive trees and date palms. But on a “Principal Products” map of the Middle East, Syria’s main product icon would be a little picture of Sheik Hassan Nasrallah. Take that away, and what does Syria do to hold its head up in the honor-sensitive Arab world?
What happens to Iran? How do they respond to having their best boy whipped? How will they bring their influence to bear in the Maghreb after Hizbullah is gone? Will they drop Boy Assad as an ally once he has outlived his Hizbullah-related usefulness? How will it affect their nuclear efforts?
But the "After Hezbollah?" question is more difficult. Allow a guess:
Hezbollah is militarily defeated some weeks hence, but before then, some other event occurs that serves to keep the region in a period of flux. This period of flux will continue until one of two outcomes is sustained: the US and its allies find themselves involved in an overt war with Iran, or Iran becomes a declared nuclear power. The events that contribute to the period of flux could be friendly actions, such as new initiatives in Iraq or diplomatic initiatives in the Levant; or Iranian actions, such as a new intifada-like campaign in Iraq, or the attempted closing of the Straits of Hormuz, or the testing of a ballistic missile.
In other words, Israel has the opportunity to achieve an operational victory over Hezbollah and destory it; but by the time that is accomplished, the overall regional strategic picture will not have changed enough to allow such a victory to congeal long enough to create a status quo that can be characterized as "post-Hezbollah." Something else will happen. The victory, though a real one, and a meaningful one, will not be as meaningful as it otherwise might be until the problem of Iran's nuclear program is settled one way or another.
This assumes an Israeli victory of course, and the capabilities within its military to produce one.
July 23, 2006
Discussion Topic: Splitting Syria From Iran, Hez
The AP reports that a major diplomatic task is being undertaken: an attempt to split Syria from its support of Hezbollah, and presumably, from its alliance with Iran, is underway:
With Israel and the United States saying a real cease-fire is not possible until Hezbollah is reined in, Arab heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia were pushing Syria to end its support for the guerrillas, Arab diplomats in Cairo said.Let's all discuss. My stream-of-consciousness thoughts:
A loss of Syria's support would deeply weaken Hezbollah, though its other ally,
Iran, gives it a large part of its money and weapons. The two moderate Arab governments were prepared to spend heavily from Egypt's political capital in the region and Saudi Arabia's vast financial reserves to break Damascus from the guerrillas and Iran, the diplomats said.
Syria said it will press for a cease-fire to end the fighting — but only in the framework of a broader Middle East peace initiative that would include the return of the Golan Heights. Israel was unlikely to accept such terms but it was the first indication of Syria's willingness to be involved in efforts to defuse the crisis.
-Do the major Arab powers have the wherewithal, whether politcal capital or financial resources, to sway Syria from its support of Hezbollah by themselves? How is such an agreement enforceable?
Seems that if they can pull it off by themselves that would be a serious accomplishment for the US because it would mean no concessions on our part in negotiations. Even with US support in the background, for example, pressuring Israel to do or not do certain things as good-faith measures, it would still be a significant move forward.
-Can the Arab powers appeal to Assad's regime as Arabs? Does that appeal carry more water than the amity he feels with Iran since his ruling caste is Shia?
-If the US enters these negotiations, what will be on the table? The US has had many differences with Syria in the past three years: the harboring of Saddam's lieutenants, the support for the insurgency, the assassination of Hariri and lack of cooperation with the resulting investigation . . . what is the US prepared to offer Syria to entice it away from Iran's umbrella? Is there a Libya-like deal there to be made? Can Qaddafi come in and do a bit of "witnessing" as it were?
-Is it possible to corral Syria away from Iran's influence while not affecting its innate hostility to Israel? My guess is yes, but only if the Arabs make the deal among themselves.
-If Syria drops its support for Hezbollah, would that serve to sunder its security relationship with Iran? What does Iran gain from being "allied" with Syria if Syria no longer supports Hezbollah?
All of this seems like reading a good mafia novel with competing crime families. Assad is weak and inexperienced. Everyone sees him as the weakest link. Does he know it? Is he trying to figure out who is the best candidate to be his protector? Whose wrath will he fear more? Iran or the US?
-Aside from political capital and financial resources, what levers can the Egyptians, Jordanians and Saudis pull to put pressure on the House of Assad?
What do all of you Loyal Readers think?
MORE: I just saw Tigerhawk's post on this same topic and he makes some of the same points I do. So go there for more discussion and his thoughts.
July 16, 2006
Noncombatant Evacuation Operation in Lebanon: The US will take the lead in evacuating Americans and other allied nation's citizens from Lebanon. In fact, there is already an assessment team on the ground figuring out the logistics of how to do a mass evacuation, especially since the Israelis have taken the Beirut airport out of action. Here's a couple of key issues that will be important:
a) throughput of personnel: If the evacuation is to be handled by helicopters as Spook 86 argues, and those are from the USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group, then there are going to be some serious logistical problems to be solved if the NEO is not to drag on for weeks. How many helicopters does the ESG have? An educated guess would be less than 30, mainly CH-46s and CH-53s, with a handful of Navy CH-60s. Figure an average of 20ish people per trip and you start to see the problem. There are an estimated 25,000 Americans in Lebanon, not to mention foreign nationals. Now the second part of the problem is the distance that must be flown. Cyprus has been mentioned as one drop-off point, where follow-on fixed wing transport can be arranged to Europe or back to the States. Nicosia, Cyprus is 150 miles from Beirut, according to Google Earth. This makes for one long flight for just 20 people per bird. Finally, I think they'll have to go to Cyprus. It's the closest relatively safe place with airfields.
I'm no NEO expert. There are probably a variety of techniques to shorten the roundtrip distance needed per flight in order to increase the flow of personnel. But here's two predictions: the US is going to surge more helicopters to the region somehow. And, don't be surprised if the British and especially French navies show up to assist in the evacuation. The NEO will be big.
b) Rules of engagement: The NEO will require a relatively light footprint on the ground; it probably will not be conducted under fire, so there can probably be some bare minimum in the way of processing stations. These areas, however many there are, will need security. I'd expect at least a company of Marine infantry to go ashore to provide security at pickup sites. A larger force could be required, depending on how many pickup sites there are and how dispersed they are.
This leads one to wonder what sorts of rules of engagement they'll be given. If sniped at, what's the response? If the transport helos receive ground fire, will Cobras be on call to respond?
Finally, aside from tactical considerations of ROE and responses, what does it mean strategically if an American helicopter is shot down in Lebanon? That is the biggest risk of the entire operation. Finally, if US ships are close to shore, what's to prevent Hezbollah from using one of its drones to attack the US Navy?
July 13, 2006
The Guns of July Part Two
Assorted thoughts for today about the conflict in the Middle East:
1. All day I thought, you know, there really hasn't been that much activity on the ground yet. Richard Fernandez agrees, writing in a Belmont Club thread:
. . . remember that actual events on the ground are still limited, despite the ominous sounds being generated everywhere. That might be part of the posturing game. Our best bet is to keep watching. We'll know where this goes soon enough.I agree.
2. Strategic Forecasting, in a subscription-only piece (hat-tip to Tigerhawk) has predicted this [emphasis added]:
Given the blockade and what appears to be the shape of the airstrikes, it seems to us at the moment the Israelis are planning to go fairly deep into Lebanon. The logical first step is a move to the Litani River in southern Lebanon. But given the missile attacks on Haifa, they will go farther, not only to attack launcher sites, but to get rid of weapons caches.This means a move deep into the Bekaa Valley, the seat of Hezbollah power and the location of plants and facilities. Such a penetration would leave Israeli forces' left flank open, so a move into Bekaa would likely be accompanied by attacks to the west. It would bring the Israelis close to Beirut again.This is eerily similar to a possible scenario for Israeli action described in an opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post[emphasis added here as well]:
This leaves Israel's right flank exposed, and that exposure is to Syria. The Israeli doctrine is that leaving Syrian airpower intact while operating in Lebanon is dangerous. Therefore, Israel must at least be considering using its air force to attack Syrian facilities, unless it gets ironclad assurances the Syrians will not intervene in any way. Conversations are going on between Egypt and Syria, and we suspect this is the subject. But Israel would not necessarily object to the opportunity of eliminating Syrian air power as part of its operation, or if Syria chooses, going even further.
At the same time, Israel does not intend to get bogged down in Lebanon again. It will want to go in, wreak havoc, withdraw. That means it will go deeper and faster, and be more devastating, than if it were planning a long-term occupation. It will go in to liquidate Hezbollah and then leave. True, this is no final solution, but for the Israelis, there are no final solutions.
For some time, the defense establishment has considered the Hizbullah armaments an important enough target to justify preemptive action. Therefore, the removal of the missile threat and the perceived strategic parity that has constrained Israel's reaction to past Hizbullah provocations must be the primary goal of an Israeli invasion of southern Lebanon.
Eliminating the Hizbullah missile threat will allow greater freedom of action against Syria and Iran. The "search and destroy" mode of operation required for capturing and/or destroying the missiles hidden in numerous locations necessitates the use of ground forces. But, of course, even their cautious employment under an aerial umbrella might be costly. To a large extent the success of Israeli actions in Lebanon will be measured by the counting of casualties.
Israel may well capitalize on its missile hunt in Lebanon to expand the goal of the operations. Israeli threats to seriously punish Hizbullah probably mean targeting its leadership. A "gloves off" policy to decapitate Hizbullah could paralyze this terrorist organization for several years. This would clearly signal Israel's determination to deal with terrorist threats and with Iranian proxies.
A further expansion of goals concerns Syria - the channel for Iranian support to Hizbullah. Damascus still hosts the headquarters of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, despite promising the Americans a few years ago to close their offices.
Israel may enjoy much freedom of action versus Syria because Syria frustrated the American and French attempts to limit it's influence in Lebanon in their quest to restore Lebanon's independence. Washington, in particular, may relish military pressure on a Bashar Assad regime that allows infiltration of insurgents into Iraq from its territory.
Syrian targets could be attacked by an Israel Air Force that could easily suppress the Syrian air defenses and acquire aerial supremacy. Israel may also decide the time is ripe for attacking the Syrian long-range missile infrastructure, whose threat hovers over most of Israel.
3. Michael Ledeen makes this point in an NRO piece:
After a few days of fighting, I would not be surprised to see some new kind of terrorist attack against Israel, or against an American facility in the region. An escalation to chemical weapons, for example, or even the fulfillment of the longstanding Iranian promise to launch something nuclear at Israel. They meant it when they said it, don’t you know?The kidnapping yesterday put the initiative in the hands of Hezbollah. Israel has regained the initiative in this conflict with its rapid and robust response. It's important at this point to differentiate between acts by Hezbollah that regain the initiative yet again at the operational level and acts which escalate the conflict in an attempt to seize the initiative at the strategic level. If Israel conducts airstrikes in Syria, this is an escalation, a strategic enlargement of the conflict. The same is true of Hezbollah acts that involve overt Syrian or Iranian involvement. On the other hand, an Israeli ground incursion into Lebanon does not seem like such an escalation. The same might be said for rocket attacks by Hezbollah. These would be more confined to the existing campaign space, small though it may be.
4. Today, the Intrade prediction market contracts dealing with Iran were extremely active and had high volume. Here's a breakdown:
a) The contract "USA and/or Israel to execute an overt Air Strike against Iran by 31SEP06" increased from 5.0 to 10.0, an increase of 100% on volume of 631.
b) The contract "USA and/or Israel to execute an overt Air Strike against Iran by 31DEC06" increased from 10.0 to 18.0, an increase of 80%, on volume of 5050.
c) The contract "USA and/or Israel to execute an overt Air Strike against Iran by 31March07" increased from 15.0 to 22.0, an increase of 47%, on volume of 8179.
For the uninitiated, these contracts are settled when the event occurs or when the date expires. When a contract is settled, it is either a "yes" and the value goes to 100, or it is a "no" and the value drops to 0. So the "price" level of the contracts currently don't indicate a huge sentiment that airstrikes are imminent, since the prices are mostly closer to 0. But they are worth watching to see how that sentiment changes in the coming days. At least, they are worth watching if you have any belief whatsoever in the wisdom of crowds.
5. Here's a couple of requests for information for you Loyal Readers:
a) What's the range and payload of Israel's Jericho missiles? What would be the most effective use of them if Israel wanted to strike Iran? How many does it have? I researched this once and I think they have between 200 and 300. But I bet there are readers who know better than any quick Google searches I could do.
b) Have there ever been any reports of chemical weapons being shipped to Hezbollah? How credible are those reports? Can Katusha or Fajr rockets hold a chemical payload without destroying it on detonation?
c) Can rocket attacks be countered with counterbattery fire? My guess is that the Katushas can, but that something like the Fajr missiles depend on how close the counterbattery tubes are to the launch sites. Artillery has a much shorter range than rockets do.
d) What's the latest version of Patriots we've sold to Israel? Do they have PAC3s or just PAC2s? There's an order of magnitude of difference in performance.
6. Tigerhawk's big post today was extremely insightful. This is his conclusion:
Iran cannot afford to let Israel decimate Hezbollah in Lebanon. If Israel measures its response to preserve Hezbollah, a wider war can still be avoided. However, if Israel decides that it can no longer allow Hezbollah to attack it from Lebanon, Iran will have to intervene. The question is how? One method might be to increase the pressure on the United States, the external player with the greatest ability to influence Israel. If Iraq's Shiites rise up during the crisis in Lebanon, we will know who is behind them.This is a very compelling argument. Allow some absolutely unadulterated speculation: If Iran's goal is to set the Middle East ablaze in order to give it as much leverage as possible in upcoming trials concerning its nuke program, then an Iraqi uprising seems like a great way to do so. The question is, can they actually accomplish such an uprising? I haven't followed the latest antics of Moqtada Al-Sadr closely enough to know. Readers may disagree. Keep an eye on Muthanna province though, which was turned over to the Iraqi security forces in toto today. That is deep in the heart of Shi'ite Iraq. If there's to be some sort of uprising, it might be one place to look, and the target might not be American and coalition forces, but the Iraqi government.
July 12, 2006
The Guns of July
The big news of the hour is twofold: first, Carl in Jerusalem has it on good authority that Israel is stepping up its strikes into Lebanon and will declare war tonight against its neighbor. I've never heard of Carl in Jerusalem before but that post is being linked from everywhere. So far, no other secondary confirmation of an open declaration of war, even though Drudge himself is running with the headline "It's War, Israel Says" which points to this piece in which Olmert doesn't say that but calls "the Hezbollah raid an "act of war" by Lebanon and threatened "very, very, very painful" retaliation."
Then there's good ole Debka, which always has something interesting, but which usually must be taken with a shaker of salt. Debka is reporting both that Ali Larijani, the Iranian National Security Advisor, is in Damascus for consultations with Syria, AND that the real reason this whole dustup started is so Iran can force the G8 to focus on Israel during their conference starting today:
Tehran hopes to hijack the agenda before the G-8 summit opening in St. Petersberg, Russia on July 15. Instead of discussing Iran’s nuclear case and the situation in Iraq along the lines set by President George W. Bush, the leaders of the industrial nations will be forced to address the Middle East flare-up.This makes for an interesting little narrative, but it ascribes a great degree of control of events to the Iranians -- a degree that is hard to sustain at any level when human beings are involved. Keep It Simple Stupid is the best defense against conspiracy theories: no plan ever survives contact with the enemy, and conspiracy theories are always the most convoluted of plans.
But even if Iran didn't set in motion the current crisis, there's no reason to believe it doesn't want to profit from it.
If Larijani is in Damascus, my guess is they're trying to keep Israel from declaring war on Syria at all costs. Consider:
-Syria is militarily extremely weak compared to Israel
-Iran is not only weaker than Israel, it has no easy method of threatening Israel, save with missiles of questionable accuracy.
-Israel can strike Syria from the air with impunity.
Now consider: from the Iranian and Syrian standpoint, the best course of action is to vex the Israelis as much as possible via their Hamas and Hezbollah proxies. So long as this happens, Israel does take the headlines, and the attention span at the G8. But as soon as Israel declares war on Syria, or commits an act of war, which might be the same thing, then events start to turn sour for the Iranians:
-Iran will have to declare war on Israel or risk losing face in the region, since it has pledged to defend Syria
-Syria's government would likely fall; what might follow it is anyone's guess; what does follow might not be nearly as close to Iranian interests
-Israel and the US have never fought on the same side at the same time, but Lord (and Yahweh) knows they'll help each other in other ways. If a three-way war breaks out, and Israel requested US permission to use bases in Iraq for strikes against Iran, even for refueling, the US might grant them their wish. Alternatively, it was rumored long ago that Israel had set up a deal with the Kurds to use Kurdish bases for strikes into Iran. The same might be true of Turkey, which has no love for Iran either.
From the Israeli standpoint, it all depends on what they can gain from striking Syria. If they think strikes in Syria will convince the Syrians to pressure Hamas to release Shalit, they might give it a shot. But they are probably just as aware of the consequences as anyone else: Iran might declare war.
So my guess is neither Israel, nor Syria, nor Iran want to get in a war with each other at the moment. But there're always wild cards. At least three groups, Israel, Hamas, Hizbollah, and possibly a fourth, the Lebanese military, are now involved. From that stew, an event might emerge that like it or not would force a widening of the conflict by one side or another, or an entry by Iran or Syria. This is it, in a nutshell: Is Israel willing to risk a widening of the conflict in order to dismantle Hamas and Hezbollah? Is Iran willing to risk the dismantlement of Hamas and Hezbollah in order NOT to widen the conflict?
The New Republic carries a piece entitled, Battle Plans:
The next Middle East war--Israel against genocidal Islamism--has begun. The first stage of the war started two weeks ago, with the Israeli incursion into Gaza in response to the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier and the ongoing shelling of Israeli towns and kibbutzim; now, with Hezbollah's latest attack, the war has spread to southern Lebanon. Ultimately, though, Israel's antagonists won't be Hamas and Hezbollah but their patrons, Iran and Syria. The war will go on for months, perhaps several years. There may be lulls in the fighting, perhaps even temporary agreements and prisoner exchanges. But those periods of calm will be mere respites . . .And we silly Americans thought this was about one captured Israeli soldier. Stupid, stupid . . .
The ultimate threat, though, isn't Hezbollah or Hamas but Iran. And as Iran draws closer to nuclear capability--which the Israeli intelligence community believes could happen this year--an Israeli-Iranian showdown becomes increasingly likely. According to a very senior military source with whom I've spoken, Israel is still hoping that an international effort will stop a nuclear Iran; if that fails, then Israel is hoping for an American attack. But if the Bush administration is too weakened to take on Iran, then, as a last resort, Israel will have to act unilaterally. And, added the source, Israel has the operational capability to do so.
For Israelis, that is the worst scenario of all. Except, of course, the scenario of nuclear weapons in the hands of the patron state of Hezbollah and Hamas.
UPDATE, 8:08am EST: Welcome Pajamas Media and Roger Simon readers! Roger says, about this post: "I think he is naive in thinking the Israelis didn't want this confrontation. It may be quite the opposite - at least in its result. You could look at this all as Sharon's trap... and his adversaries walked right into it."
Hmm. Could be. The question is what kind of confrontation did they want? Is this a limited action meant to stop the kidnapping for prisoners rubric that has become standard practice? Or is this something larger? Is it meant to attack Hezbollah in depth? Or is it even larger, meant to hit Syria and Iran too? My guess, as I tried to outline above, is that the Israelis don't want to spark a regional conflict, just hurt Hezbollah very badly.
Here are some interesting things to read:
-The Jerusalem Post reports :
Defense Minister Amir Peretz said on Thursday morning that Israel would not allow Hizbullah to return to its positions on Lebanon's southern border. He also demanded that Lebanese forces secure the border, something they have not done to date, during comments made to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.Hmm. Several months.
A high-ranking IDF source said that the current operation, dubbed Operation Just Reward, would be "long" and could last up to several months, or "as long as it takes to destroy the Hizbullah's ability to launch attacks against Israel."
Raja @ Lebanese Bloggers, who's been doing a play-by-play of events, also something big is in the works:
Something tells me that everything the Israelis are doing right now is preparation for something much bigger.Finally, this is the most interesting thing I've read in the past 24 hours. An article written in August of 2002 by Mark Silverberg, an author in the Ariel Center for Policy Research is an absolute must-read:
American and Israeli leadership both share a common concern that Bashar al-Assad is "playing with fire". Hezbollah has the ability - even the intention - of sparking an explosion that could lead to a regional war. Nasrallah now possesses 7,000 Katyusha rockets - each targeted at Israel. Some are heavy, long-range missiles that threaten the entire Galilee region to the outskirts of Haifa (and its oil refineries).Read the whole thing. It's an uncanny description of exactly what's happening 4 years later.
Hezbollah has completed building a line of forward positions along the Israeli border, complete with video cameras that track the IDF's movements in order to learn the operational routine of its units. Iranian officers in Southern Lebanon check Hezbollah deployments directly under Syrian eyes.
Within the next several months, Hezbollah will also complete construction of its second line of defense deep inside South Lebanon meant to create a barrier against any Israeli armed advance. The effect of such a barrier will permit Hezbollah to shell northern Israel continuously over a period of several months, and, if necessary, to slow an Israeli retaliatory invasion.
The problem for Israel is that young President al-Assad has surrounded himself with people inexperienced in high politics, although he recognizes his country's military and technological inferiority to Israel. Assad Jr. unfortunately, is fascinated by Nasrallah, accepts his patronizing praise and has allowed him to hold at least one Hezbollah paramilitary parade on Syrian soil.
He's playing the dangerous game of brinksmanship without understanding the rules. Slowly, almost invisibly, an important revolution appears to be underway. Hezbollah is gradually consolidating its strength in Syria, and the Iranians, whose Vice-President recently visited Damascus, have "laid down the law" for the confused leadership there.
A Syria that can be manipulated by Hezbollah under Iranian guidance could well miss that crucial moment when Iran and Hezbollah attempt to spark a regional conflagration by means of a military provocation on Israel's northeastern border.
That is a major source of concern to both Israel and the United States Defense Department. A weak and naive Syria will accelerate the power, influence and growth of Hezbollah, just as Arafat now finds it impossible to control Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Tanzim and the al Aksa Martyrs Brigades in the Palestinian territories. The more that Nasrallah is convinced that Assad Jr. is not up to speed; the more he will be convinced that he, in consultation with his Iranian cohorts, holds the key to power. And if he is convinced that there is an American threat to Iran, he will preempt it by striking at the Galilee to provoke an Israeli retaliatory strike.
But that retaliatory strike will be at Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as Syria.
This is not an imaginary scenario. As recently as three weeks ago, American and Israeli UN representatives met privately with their Syrian counterpart to warn him of the danger posed to Syria and the entire region by Hezbollah.
The singular conclusion is that someone has to inject sufficient fear into the Syrians to bring Nasrallah down.
And if the Europeans and Americans can't, the Israelis will. [emphasis added]
UPDATE2 8:38am EST: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please comment. What does everyone else think?
June 30, 2006
Some things to note for weekend thinking:
1. The Guardian reports that:
The intelligence agencies have warned ministers that Iran could launch terrorist attacks against British targets if the row over its controversial nuclear programme escalates, it was disclosed today.That's something to keep in mind. The same article notes:
The parliamentary intelligence and security committee - which oversees the work of the agencies - said the possibility of Iranian state-sponsored terrorism was now considered one of the main threats facing the UK.
"There is increasing international tension over Iran's nuclear programme and backing of groups such as Lebanese Hezbollah," the committee said in its annual report.
"There is a possibility of an increased threat to UK interests from Iranian state-sponsored terrorism should the diplomatic situation deteriorate."
The report also revealed that MI5, the security service, was expanding so rapidly in order to meet the threat of terrorism in the UK that it had outgrown its London headquarters building.Wow. That is amazing. MI-5 is the agency that will be infiltrating or surveiling any homegrown terror cells or organizations. Good to see that they are taking things seriously across the pond.
Thames House at Westminster is expected to have exhausted its capacity by October. The committee said another building had been found to provide additional accommodation - but its identity was censored out on security grounds.
MI5 staff numbers are now expected to grow by over 50% over the next three years, with over half its resources now devoted to counter-terrorism.
2. That article was via RegimeChangeIran, which is asking for your help. Gary Metz, aka Dr. Zin, is requesting donations for "several campaigns to take this work to the next level." Look for more info there soon. He's also asking for volunteers. Sounds like he has something up his sleeve . . . RegimeChangeIran is a great site, so consider supporting him.
3. Finally, while we're in an altruistic mood, Robert Mayer of Publiuspundit sends this:
I have decided to try the path of Michael Totten sans the Middle East. I will be writing pieces from places like Honduras (one of the darkest corners in Latin America), Catalunya (which voted for large autonomy from Spain), The Netherlands (where the government has collapsed over the Ayaan Hirsi Ali affair), Switzerland (an overlooked and extremely interesting country), and the Czech Republic (home of the original velvet revolution that people talk so much about). Most of my reporting will be from Latin America and eventually Eastern Europe, someday moving on to other regions.His first post is here. Check it out and if you like it hit his tipjar.
June 23, 2006
The Iraqi Peace Deal
Very late night thoughts of the just-reported Iraqi peace deal (see here):
1. The source: The Times nailed another recent event way in advance: the large-scale security operation in Baghdad. They called that several months ago and were correct that it would occur in the summer. They seem to have good sources inside the parties that would be involved in the negotiations.
2. The negotiations: There's a deal and then there's a deal. How close is this to getting done? Have confidence-building measures already been performed? Could the appointments of the Interior and Defense ministers be a part of that process? Could Zarqawi's death have been part of the process? The two happened on the same day! That has bothered me ever since . . .
3. The terms: The Times article states,
The Government will promise a finite, UN-approved timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq; a halt to US operations against insurgent strongholds; an end to human rights violations, including those by coalition troops; and compensation for victims of attacks by terrorists or Iraqi and coalition forces.It's never good to believe the first report. This one implies that the US will admit ongoing human rights violations. It also implies that the UN has somehow given sanction already to an existing withdrawal plan. Neither of these seem like concessions the US would be willing to make. FInally, the article states in a later point "A halt to “anti-terrorist operations” by coalition forces in insurgent areas" as being another term. What exactly does that mean? It seems way too broad.
My guess is that the agreement is much more detailed and some of these details are incorrect as reported.
4. Enforcement: The deal involves "seven Sunni insurgent groups". Is that a significant enough portion of the insurgency to really offer a meaningful end to violence? Do we have good documentation of their capabilities (see confidence-building measures above)? And, will they act against the remaining elements of the insurgency, whether Ba'athists, criminals, or Al Qaeda? This would be a must, no?
5. Effects: Wow. I think the degree to which this will be good for Bush will depend on whether Iraqis who've killed Americans are given amnesty and how that works out.
This would be bad for Iran, not only because they'll lose a little more on their bid for influence, but because the US will soon be in a position to right-face the whole force and head east (figuratively).
The Left will still be the Left, but it won't win in November. And if the whole thing goes through more or less as declared by the Times -- which says it has seen the documents -- then Zalmay Khalilzad should get the Nobel Peace Prize.
If the deal goes through as predicted, someone is going to have to sit back and tally the results: what did the insurgents get out of the insurgency? This is a deal after all, not a surrender. Did they get a place at the political table? A share in oil revenue? Something more? Implied security guarantees?
One can ask what the US has gotten for its blood and treasure . . . but I think it is far too early for that.
If Iraqis who've killed Americans are given amnesty, a curious possibility enters the mind: future Sunni politicians who declare their status as veterans of the war against the Americans in their campaigns . . . This is a horrendous historical comparison, but Confederate officers weren't allowed to run for office . . .
But let's hold for more developments . . .
April 13, 2006
Iran Extravaganza Post
This post will be about Iran, and divided into four parts. Each is more or less unrelated, except that they are all things that have been kicking around in my skull for the last few days and weeks. Take from them what you will.
In Kenneth Pollack's work, The Persian Puzzle, he discusses several different policy options vis-a-vis Iran and then has this little gem, near the end of the work, while discussing one he calls "The Grand Bargain":
The problem with the Grand Bargain is that it doesn't work in practice. Every American administration since Reagan has put the Grand Bargain on the table and tried to coax the Iranians into accepting it. In particular, the Grand Bargain was the explicit core of the Clinton initiative. When Clinton administration officals spoke to Khatami's unofficial interlocutors, as well as to various European countries that tried to play a mediating role between Washington and Tehran, the course that they consistently laid out was a process of negotiations that would lead to a comprehensive deal over all of the different problem issues that lay between the two countries -- this is where the term "Grand Bargain" came from. The problem that lies at the heart of the Grand Bargain -- the problem that the Clinton administration stumbled over, much to its disappointment -- is the fundamental problem that lies at the heart of the Iranian-American confrontation.While that settles in, consider this excerpt from Bush's State of the Union address in January:
Whenever American officials are able to talk to Iranians about what it is that they would want from a Grand Bargain, and whenever American citizens are able to talk to Iranian officials about what it is that they would want from a Grand Bargain, one of the foremost things that the Iranians invariably say is, "Respect." In my own conversations with Iranians, in and out of government, I have found that it is usually the first of their demands -- and they often say it immediately and then have to think hard as to what their other demands might be. "Respect" is an abstract concept that needs to be made tangible if it is going to be part of a deal. So, like good negotiators, the Americans inevitably ask, "What do you mean by respect?" Typically, the Iranians cannot define what respect would be, but they are full of illustrations of disrespectful American behavior that would have to end for Iran to be willing to accept a Grand Bargain. For instance, the Iranians never fail to observe that saying that Iran was part of an "Axis of Evil" was disrespectful. The sanctions are disrespectful. Criticizing the (flagrantly rigged) February 2004 Majles elections for being flagrantly rigged was disrespectful. Any criticism of Iran's internal affairs, such as its kangaroo-court judicial procedures and its arrest of political dissidents on ridiculous charges, is disrespectful. A senator calling Iran the world's worst terrorist state is disrespectful. American newspapers writing articles about problems in the Iranian economy is disrespectful. The State Department stating that Iran supports terrorism rather than acknowledging that Iran is a victim of terrorism (both of which are true) is disrespectful. Claiming that Iran is harboring Al-Qaida personnel is disrespectful. I have personally heard every one of those statements made by Iranians in response to my question as to what "respect" means . . .
As it has for the past fifty years, the United States remains not only Iran's greatest political stumbling block but its greatest psychological stumbling block. The Iranians have so much emotional baggage attached to the United States that they simply cannot move past it. Just as the taking of the embassy in 1979 was more about seeking psychological gratification for twenty-five years of Iranian grievances against the United States (real and imagined), so today any political relationship with the United States remains captive to that same insurmountable sense of grievance. When Iranians talk about getting "respect" from the United States, they are demanding that the United States treat them better than we treat any other nation on earth -- that we refrain from all criticism whatsoever and not just by the administration itself, but by the Congress and even the media. We don't treat our closest allies that well.
And, tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran. [emphasis added]Well, that's certainly interesting . . . read into it however you like.
George Friedman's latest Strategic Geopolitical Intelligence Report (subscriber-only) is about the conflicts between idealism and realism in foreign policy. He goes through several past examples and summarizes them with this pithy line:
A doctrine emerges in looking at these three examples: the pursuit of political principles is possible only when one is willing to look at the long term; the near term requires ruthless and unsentimental compromise.Friedman then goes on to state that he believes this is very relevant to the present because the US just might make a deal with Iran about Iraq:
The United States may well wind up making a deal with Iran over Iraq. Alternatively, a Sunni coalition led by Saudi Arabia might give Washington the opportunity to negotiate with the Baathist guerrillas in the Sunni Triangle. Whichever path is followed, it will be condemned by both left and right for dozens of excellent moral reasons.You know, I just am not sure that I'm buying this. Well, to clarify: there is no doubt that ruthless and unsentimental compromise is a necessity in the execution of strategy. But Friedman states the necessity of such compromise with Iran in passing; he makes no detailed case for it, and I find it hard to see one.
Bush has been pursuing the path of pragmatism, however clumsily or adroitly, for months now. He will make a deal with someone because going it alone is not an option. The current situation in Iraq cannot be sustained, and all presidents ultimately respond to reality. Bush might have to eat some words about democracy and the United States' commitment thereto, but if Roosevelt could speak of the Four Freedoms while working with Josef Stalin, all things are possible.
Cutting deals across unsavory lines will be necessary regardless of the goal. But getting out of Iraq may not be that goal. The Iranians are a huge threat. If they can be used against the Ba'athist insurgency, then the Sunnis can alternatively be used against the Iranians.
There are lots of goals in the Middle East and each has little subgoals as well:
a) destroy al Qaeda (and capture those who might be more useful alive)
b) prevent Iran from having nukes (and circumscribe its influence in all parts, and foster regime change there if possible)
c) destroy the insurgency (both the Ba'athist one and Muqtada Al Sadr's simmering one)
d) foster Iraqi democracy (while at the same time keeping the place from splitting apart, or becoming too theocratic)
It's hard to say at any one point which of these is the most important to the US and Bush; the US probably prefers it that way so that its adversaries cannot guess its true intentions (Bush is rumored to have been a tremendous poker player while at business school). But my own guess is that preventing Iran from having nukes is probably going to trump all the others in the near term. And I think Friedman ascribes more power to the insurgency than actually exists. Soon they'll be gone. Violence will spike some more in the future and after the government is formed, then decline gradually over time. But Iran is a huge problem and getting worse.
Moreover, the same American government that invaded Iraq on the pretext of the danger from the nexus of rogue state, terrorism, and WMD is more or less still in place. They may have eaten a bit of crow on the issue of how the US might know when such an invasion is necessary, given how abysmal our intelligence is. But their initial logic has not been refuted: WMD in the hands of unstable regimes who support terrorism IS an enormous threat to the world. Arguing that pre-emptive action is impossible because our intelligence is horrendous is really to quibble about the execution of the policy of pre-emption, not to rebut the basic premise. Moreover, even if intellilgence is lacking, perhaps the Iranian regime's own admissions of their intent obviates the need to rely solely on the boys at Fort Meade and Langley.
Mark Steyn's latest article in Cityjournal discusses the idea that the leaders of Iran, since its Revolution, have always viewed themselves as much more than the leaders of any one country or state:
What, after all, is the issue underpinning every little goofy incident in the news, from those Danish cartoons of Mohammed to recommendations for polygamy by official commissions in Canada to the banning of the English flag in English prisons because it’s an insensitive “crusader” emblem to the introduction of gender-segregated swimming sessions in municipal pools in Puget Sound? In a word, sovereignty. There is no god but Allah, and thus there is no jurisdiction but Allah’s. Ayatollah Khomeini saw himself not as the leader of a geographical polity but as a leader of a communal one: Islam. Once those urbane socialist émigrés were either dead or on the plane back to Paris, Iran’s nominally “temporal” government took the same view, too: its role is not merely to run national highway departments and education ministries but to advance the cause of Islam worldwide.Steyn is here hinting at something that is little discussed outside of the abstract: how Iran would use its new nuclear status. Everyone generally assumes that its entry into the club would be bad because it would empower the Iranian state. But what Steyn touches upon is the idea that instead Iran is making its bid for supremacy over an entire religion. An earlier section in the same essay:
Take Iran: it doesn’t fit into any of the groups. Indeed, it’s a buffer zone between most of the important ones: to the west, it borders the Arab world; to the northwest, it borders NATO (and, if Turkey ever passes its endless audition, the European Union); to the north, the former Soviet Union and the Russian Federation’s turbulent Caucasus; to the northeast, the Stans—the newly independent states of central Asia; to the east, the old British India, now bifurcated into a Muslim-Hindu nuclear standoff. And its southern shore sits on the central artery that feeds the global economy.
If you divide the world into geographical regions, then, Iran’s neither here nor there. But if you divide it ideologically, the mullahs are ideally positioned at the center of the various provinces of Islam—the Arabs, the Turks, the Stans, and the south Asians. Who better to unite the Muslim world under one inspiring, courageous leadership? If there’s going to be an Islamic superpower, Tehran would seem to be the obvious candidate.
The excellent little book Grand Strategies in War and Peace contains an essay on Soviet Grand Strategy, from the Revolution through the 1980s. Among other things, the essay discusses one key decision point of the USSR early on in its life: the leaders had to decide what was more important, continuing to prosecute the revolution abroad, or focusing on shoring up security within the boundaries of Russia first? The answer was important as it would determine things like who might or might not be invaded, where to spend military outlays, and so forth. The answer, as you can guess, was to first shore things up at home, lest the revolution become overstretched and then stall -- making it vulnerable to rollback.
Are not the Iranians pursuing a similar strategy now? Surely they've sent influence abroad, but it has been of the softer kind than invasions. Instead, they are focusing on getting nukes -- the ultimate guarantor of state security -- and then, as Steyn mentions, they'll really be able to flex their muscles.
Fortunately for all of us, the essay on Commie strategy described above was written by none other than Condoleezza Rice.
Thus far I have implied a link between proliferation and deterrence, suggesting that the society of states as a whole can determine when proliferation poses a systemic threat by asking whether a state's acquisition of nuclear weapons strengthens of weakens the prevailing system of nuclear deterrence. That system is currently underpinned by United States nuclear forces. It rests on the assumption that the United States will not use nuclear weapons as a means of aggression, but that it will actually destroy another state if that state cannot be otherwise dissuaded from attacking a state protected by the American nuclear deterrent. If the United States were to change its policies in either aspect, the current system of deterrence would be difficult to sustain, as formerly protected states raced to arm themselves and formerly deterred states began to explore the rewards of coercion.Now let's just say for argument's sake that you completely disagree: deterrence will work in an "n-polar" world, even if one of those poles is Iran. Let's consider the assumption there that the Iranians are rational actors. There are many who argue that Ahmadinjad is a "madman," thus attempting to rebut those who think deterrence would work, even with him.
This present system would be gravely undermined by multipolarity -- the acquisition of a third superpower nuclear arsenal -- for two reasons. First, multipolarity introduces a complexity that tends to weaken American commitments by blurring the identity of the states to be deterred: in a tripolar or n-polar world, responsibility is diffused. The persuasiveness of the argument, often heard in the United States during the Cold War, that the United States must act to suppress international violence or parry aggression, because if the United States doesn't, no one else will, fades in a multipolar world. The sheer complexity of deterrence in a multipolar world, coupled with an understandable American willingness to let other powers take up burdens long carried by the United States, creates a situation similar to that of the paralyzed crowds that attend emergencies. Second, the system of deterrence is stressed whenever a crisis triggers the threat of the use of nuclear weapons to deter aggression; such crises call the American bluff and require the United States to run potentially fatal risks to enforce dissuasion. Multipolarity can only increase, perhaps exponentially, the number of nuclear crises. We could have had another system of nuclear deterrence, perhaps managed by other powers, but this is the one we have, and this is the system bequeathed us by the Long War. [emphasis in original]
"Madman" is so simplistic. What might be a more complex way of describing his thinking? Since my desire to find new material for you loyal readers out there knows no bounds (or because I'm truly addicted to this stuff, I don't know which is worse), one evening I found myself trolling through the RAND site, where I encountered this splendid paperby David Ronfeldt: Beware the Hubris-Nemesis Complex: A Concept for Leadership Analysis. The hubris-nemesis complex is defined thus:
In the years ahead, the United States will assuredly find itself in new international crises involving nations or groups that have powerful leaders. In some cases, these leaders may have a special, dangerous mindset that is the result of a "hubris-nemesis complex."What are some of the attributes of the complex?
This complex involves a combination of hubris (a pretension toward an arrogant form of godliness) and nemesis (a vengeful desire to confront, defeat, humiliate, and punish an adversary, especially one that can be accused of hubris). The combination has strange dynamics that may lead to destructive, high-risk behavior. Attempts to deter, compel or negotiate with a leader who has a hubris-nemesis complex can be ineffectual or even disastrously counterproductive when those attempts are based on concepts better suited to dealing with more normal leaders.
- a destructive-constructive messianism;THe study goes on to list some leaders who exhibit this complex: Castro, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Khadafi, Khomeini, and probably Slobodan Milosevic, Kim Il Sung, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky. Some who are unsavory but nonetheless have different personalities are: Lenin, Stalin, and Mao.
-high, moralizing ideals that justify violence;
-a demand for absolute power, loyalty and attention;
-a fierce sense of struggle that may turn self-sacrificial;
One interesting aspect of the study is its mention of fictional examples. Captain Ahab in Moby Dick and Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost come in for scrutiny:
Aboard ship, Ahab imposes an "irresistible dictatorship" to go after a superpowerful beast, Moby Dick, that had injured him physically, and in Ahab's view, intellectually and spiritually too. This "grand, ungodly, godlike man" fulminates like a vengeful match for any power in heaven, in hell or on earth. His consuming pride and rage for revenge against the White Whale blaze in the great speech before his crew where he proclaims, "I will wreak that hate upon him . . . I'd strike the sun if it insulted me." And while others think him mad, Ahab knows he is but "demoniac" -- and that "for this hunt my malady becomes my most desired health." The Whale of course proves to be his nemesis.This made me want to pull Melville off my shelf and read one memorable part again:
Toward thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale: to the last I grapple with thee: from hell's heart I stab at thee: for hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee.Can Mahmoud Ahmadinejad be the Captain Ahab of the Muslim world? It's a thought worth considering, whether he exhibits hubris-nemesis tendencies. Ronfeldt wrote his study on behalf of the CIA.
April 8, 2006
The US-Iraqi Security Treaty of 2007
Belmont Club points to an article I noticed in Opinionjournal last week, in which Amir Taheri fleshes out his belief that the strategy in many Muslim capitals is to wait out the end of Mr. Bush's presidency, the assumption being that whoever follows will not be so prone to an aggressive foreign policy in the Middle East:
According to this theory, President George W. Bush is an "aberration," a leader out of sync with his nation's character and no more than a brief nightmare for those who oppose the creation of an "American Middle East." Messrs. Abbasi and Ahmadinejad have concluded that there will be no helicopter as long as George W. Bush is in the White House. But they believe that whoever succeeds him, Democrat or Republican, will revive the helicopter image to extricate the U.S. from a complex situation that few Americans appear to understand.Allow a bit of speculation . . .
Mr. Ahmadinejad's defiant rhetoric is based on a strategy known in Middle Eastern capitals as "waiting Bush out." "We are sure the U.S. will return to saner policies," says Manuchehr Motakki, Iran's new Foreign Minister.
The Bush administration is probably equally as concerned as Mr. Ahmadinejad that its successor will pursue a, for lack of a better term, more "traditional" foreign policy in the Muslim world. Moreover, the Bush team has proven fairly adept at forcing military actions to conform to domestic political timeframes. I think an oft-overlooked facet of the timing of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was its relationship to the election cycle. Bush et al. knew that they wanted to get rid of Saddam, and knew that they had to do it in his first term, because there was no way to guarantee that he'd have a second. Letting the inspections drag on then, as an alternative strategy for example, would have been more than just backing down; it would have lessened the chance that the regime would be changed before November of 2004.
Likewise, the Second Battle of Fallujah coincided with the end of the US election in 2004, as Bush could not risk the media's coverage of a dirty, urban battle while he was shoring up his own electoral position at home.
Some might think this is a poor way to plan: manipulative of policy for the purposes of political gain . . . but to think such is to ignore the intricate ties between warfare and politics . . . Clausewitz would understand what the President is up to, as would Lincoln, I think . . .
In any case, assuming Mr. Taheri is correct in his assessment of the "waiting Bush out" strategy he describes, we now encounter a new foreign-policy conundrum for Bush's team. First an inescapable fact: after January 20th, 2009, we'll have a new President, who might have altogether different ideas of how the US should be involved in the Middle East.
So assume that Bush wants his strategy to continue beyond his own tenure. How might he ensure that? One way might be through a security treaty with the new Iraqi government. Such a treaty might detail the nature of continued US intervention for the next decade or so: where bases might be located; how aid should be distributed; how intelligence might be shared between the two; how the two countries' forces could cooperate in a variety of endeavors . . .
It is unlikely that such a step could be taken in 2006 because of political conditions in both countries: the Iraqi government is in no shape to begin deliberating it, as it does not yet exist. And in Washington, things have entered the twilight zone that occurs in the runup to elections: little other than the election itself is on anyone's mind, and passing a major piece of foreign-policy legislation is unlikely (the immigration debate is certainly foreign-policyish, but is also certainly more driven by reelection concerns than anything else). Moreover, after 2007, Bush will probably have missed his chance to attempt such an initiative . . . by 2008, he'll have entered full-scale lame duck status, and most everything will be on autopilot as the politerati totally focus on the presidential election.
Back to Iraqis: one thing's for sure: whoever does end up running the government over there will not run it for long if security is not his highest priority . . .
So there's an interesting confluence of interests: US desires to extend its forward presence in the Mideast for the intermediate term, perhaps 10 years or more; and an Iraqi political need to appear to shore up domestic security, while at the same time addressing the status of the large US presence within the country.
And then there's the timing: the formation of the Iraqi government, and what could be called the continual reformation of the US government, both won't be complete until early 2007 . . .
My guess is that if the Bush team wants to enshrine some sort of aggressive US transformational policy in the Middle East, 2007 will be the year to make it happen, and a treaty, or other similar agreement, might be the means . . .
One interesting side note is that treaties must be approved by the Senate . . . and the number of Senators who are preening for 2008 is as large as ever . . . and the Bush team also has a habit of skillfully employing the tactic of forcing a vote on an issue so that legislators are thereby defined by that vote in an upcoming election (think the DHS bill of 2002 for example) . . . interesting . . .
A principle of grand strategy is to ensure that one's policies live longer than one's own administration -- for if they are the correct course, then they should not be limited in the timeframe of their execution . . .
March 2, 2006
Welcome to Post-Tipping Point politics. There is no upside to doing the right thing – which is to emphasize, as one blogger put it, that there is a difference between Dubai and Damascus. There is tremendous political upside to doing the wrong thing, boldly declaring, “I don’t care what the Muslim world thinks, I’m not allowing any Arab country running ports here in America! I don’t care how much President Bush claims these guys are our allies, I don’t trust them, and I’m not going to hand them the keys to the vital entries to our country!”Geraghty points to this New Republic piece, in which Peter Beinart asks,
Courting these voters will mean supporting proposals that are supported by wide swaths of the American people, but are largely considered nonstarters in Washington circles: much tougher immigration restrictions, including patrolling the Mexican border; racial profiling of airline passengers instead of confiscating grandma’s tweezers; drastically reducing or eliminating entry visas to residents of Muslim or Arab countries; and taking a much tougher line with Saudi Arabia and coping with the consequences of that stance. Since 9/11, the Bush administration, and most leaders on Capitol Hill in both parties have dismissed those ideas as unrealistic, counterproductive, or not in accordance to American values.
If you listen to Democratic criticism of the port deal, the Jacksonian themes are clear. In the words of California Senator Barbara Boxer, "We have to have American companies running our own ports." But nationalism tinged with xenophobia makes Democrats uncomfortable.
For Democrats, stealing the Bush administration's populist, unilateralist thunder would be a remarkable coup. And it would be a remarkable historical irony, since Jacksonianism in Jeffersonian clothes--civil libertarian, anti-globalization, uninterested in transforming the world--inverts the foreign policy of the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton.
Politically, the opportunity is clear. There's just one catch: Is this really what Democrats believe?
I'm convinced this is all a remake of Naked Gun. You remember the scene: in his zealous pursuit of the Queen's would-be assassin, Lt. Frank Drebin finds himself at an Angels game, suddenly taking the place of the umpire behind home plate. A pitch is thrown. The crowd goes silent. Drebin is quiet. The pitcher stares at him. The batter turns and looks at him. Drebin looks back at him. Then he mumbles, "Strike?"
The crowd goes wild. Drebin smiles. He's got em now! He's forgotten all about the assassin for the moment. The next pitch is thrown. It's obviously way outside. Drebin calls another strike. The crowd goes nuts! Drebin does a little dance behind the plate, with two fingers up in the air, repeating, "Two! Two! Two! Strike Two!" On the next pitch, Drebin calls a strike before the ball even hits the catcher's mitt. Then he polishes it off with a moonwalk and a bit of breakdancing.
This is where the Democratic party finds itself. With their friends in the press, they've thrown out all manner of arguments in their zealous quest to wrest power from George W. Bush. Then, all of a sudden, they find themselves in a position to umpire a large commercial transaction. Everyone waits to see what they're going to say.
The country goes wild! They reinforce their success and continue on this meme. But as Beinart notes above, are they really ready to deal with the underlying reasoning that leads the nation to cheer at their calls?
We all know how that segment of the movie ends. Drebin is having so much fun that he forgets about the sleeper in his midst. Then, when he's reminded, he starts a riot on the field. Of course, it's Hollywood and in the end he's a hero. But is this the kind of national security that we want? Ask a Democrat what kinds of actions he's prepared to take in the war, and he'll say he'll withdraw troops from Iraq. Then he'll list a litany of things he would have done differently. But does he really have a plan of any substance? In the midst of discrediting the Bush Administration, he sees an opening on Bush's right. Finally! But is he really ready to go there and do the things that those constituencies want done? All of a sudden, the pre-9/11 Democrats have gone on a blind date with 2006 voters. I have a feeling that before it is all over, the Democrats will be as terrified of the voters as they are of Arabs.
This all goes back to my post of yesterday: How will our society answer the question: Is Islam compatible with a free society? The Democrats may be about to side with those who say, No. SInce this violates some of their most fundamental principles, and those of multiculturalism, can they even make this journey? Or are we witnessing a transformation of the Democratic party?
Interestingly enough, Naked Gun opens with Drebin "on vacation" in Beirut, if memory serves, where he takes out Ayatollah Khomeini, Gorbachev, Idi Amin, and Qaddafi all at one time.
[Frank has beaten a horde of America's most-feared world leaders in a conference room and heads for a door]This was supposed to be funny back in 1988: a witless American taking the fight to the enemy: basically what the American people would have loved to see done to any of those world leaders. But it's meant to be a farce!
Muammar al-Qaddafi: Hey, who are you?
Frank: I'm Lt. Frank Drebin! Police Squad! And don't ever let me catch you guys in America!
[the door hits Frank in the face and he loses his balance]
Who knew it was prophetic of the possible electoral machinations of the Democratic party in 2006?
The Key Strategic Question
Is Islam compatible with a free society?
This is the key strategic question of our day.
In October, William Buckley wrote:
The moment has not come, but it is around the corner, when non-Muslims will reasonably demand to have evidence that the Muslim faith can operate within boundaries in which Christians and Jews (and many non-believers) live and work without unconstitutional distraction.[h-t to a Belmont Club commenter]
Buckley is correct that this is a question demanding an answer, but he misjudges the timing of its asking and answering. The truth is that assumed answers to this question have been fundamental in developing our strategies in the war on terror, and that we have yet to answer it definitively.
Is Islam compatible with a free society? A 'yes' answer offers a far different set of strategic imperatives than a 'no' answer.
In his book The Universal Hunger for Liberty, Michael Novak notes the tone of discourse in the beginning of our war:
"Surely," the proposition was put forward, by many Islamic voices as well as by the president, "a modern and faithful Islam is consistent with nonrepressive, open, economically vital societies."To say yes to our question, one assumes that there are aspects of being Muslim and faithful to Islam, that can coexist peacefully with liberty, tolerance, and equality. The strategy that follows is one of identifying the groups and sects within Islam that adhere to these notions of their religion, and then encouraging them, favoring them, propagating them, and splitting them off from the elements of Islamic practice that are all too incompatible with the portions of modernity that invigorate men's souls: free inquiry, free association, free commerce, free worship, or even the freedom to be left alone.
To answer no, one states that Islam itself is fundamentally irreconcilable with freedom. This leads to a wholly different set of tactical moves to isolate free societies from Islam. They might include:
-detention of Muslims, or an abrogation of certain of their rights;
-forced deportation of Muslims from free societies;
-rather than transformative invasions, punitive expeditions and punitive strikes;
-extreme racial profiling;
-limits on the practice and study of Islam in its entirety
And even some extreme measures if free societies find the above moves to be failing:
-forced conversion from Islam, or renunciation;
-extermination of Muslims wherever they are found.
These last are especially ghastly measures. But a society that thought Islam incompatible with freedom might in the long term slip towards them.
Since 9/11, the assumption of our government has been that Islam can be compatible with freedom. The Bush administration has been exploiting all manner of divides within the Muslim world, not to conquer it, but to transform it such that a type of Islam compatible with freedom -- and therefore the West and the US, the wellspring and birthplace of modern individual liberty -- will come to the front at the expense of a type of Islam that is irreconcilable. Every institution of government answers our key question with a resounding yes. The Pentagon, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, makes a distinction between "bin Ladenism" and moderate Muslims, our would-be allies. Bush makes speeches in praise of freedom in general and especially in the Muslim world. The defense establishment is addressing what it calls a 'war of ideas':
The U.S. government is also focusing more attention on the intangible but vital dimension of the "war of ideas" between radical Islam and moderate Western and Islamic thought. The Pentagon's September 2004 National Defense Strategy stressed the need to counter ideological support for terrorism to secure permanent gains in the war against terrorism.A yes answer to the question requires Red State Christians in the US to tolerate an Islam that tolerates them. A no answer to the question requires an abandonment of belief in the universality of ideas originating in the west, because it becomes clear that a large portion of humanity -- a fifth perhaps -- follows an incompatible religion. A yes answer forces one to attack totalitarian elements within Islam. A no answer forces a clash of civilizations, a Great Islamic War, as it assumes that all Islam is totalitarian.
It stated the importance of negating the image of a U.S. war against Islam, and instead, developing the image of a civil war within Islam, fought between moderate states and radical terrorists. This kind of imagery will feed into the broader debate beginning in the U.S. on how to win such a war of ideas and how to cultivate moderate democratic Islamic states.
A yes answer might lead to the establishment of something like the Congress for Cultural Freedom, as discussed in a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education:
The idea of the congress, however, grew out of a feeling among independent intellectuals on the non-Communist left, as well as American officials, that the West after World War II faced a huge Soviet commitment to propagandizing and imposing Communism, and might lose the battle for European minds to Stalinism.One principle of the CCF's founding document was, "Freedom is based on the toleration of divergent opinions. The principle of toleration does not logically permit the practice of intolerance."
So the congress — established at a 1950 Berlin meeting at which the writer Arthur Koestler declared to a crowd of 15,000, "Friends, freedom has seized the offensive!" — launched magazines, held conferences, mounted exhibitions, and generally sought to expose Stalinist falsehoods from its liberal position. At its height, according to Coleman, the CCF "had offices or representatives in 35 countries, employing a total of 280 staff members."
A no answer might disparage the notion that Westerners can say anything of import to those practicing Islam. I'm not sure if Bruce Thornton would answer no to the key question, but he doesn't seem to like the idea of Westerners trying to convince Muslims of anything new about their religion:
If, then, you are in possession of this truth that you are absolutely certain holds the key to universal happiness in this world and the next, why would you be tolerant of alternatives? Why should you tolerate a dangerous lie? Why should you “live and let live,” the credo of the spiritually moribund who stand for everything because they stand for nothing? And why wouldn’t you kill in the name of this vision, when the infidel nations work against God’s will and his beneficent intentions for the human race?A yes answer to our question might force us to reexamine the religious roots of our own conceptions of freedom, in order to figure best a way to help Muslims look for such roots in their faith. This might resemble the efforts of David Gelernter in his recent Bradley Lecture at the American Enterprise Institute, "A Religious Idea Called 'America'"
This is precisely what the jihadists tell us, what fourteen centuries of Islamic theology and jurisprudence tell us, what the Koran and Hadith tell us. Yet we smug Westerners, so certain of our own superior knowledge that human life is really about genes or neuroses or politics or nutrition, condescendingly look down on the true believer. Patronizing him like a child, we tell him that he doesn’t know that his own faith has been “hijacked” by “fundamentalists” who manipulate his ignorance, that what he thinks he knows about his faith is a delusion, and that the true explanation is one that we advanced, sophisticated Westerners understand while the believer remains mired in superstition and neurotic fantasy.
The most important story in and for American history is the biblical Exodus; the verse “let my people go” became the subtext of the Puritan emigration to America in the seventeenth century, the American revolution in the eighteenth, and--in significant part by Lincoln’s own efforts--of the Civil War in the nineteenth. It became important, also, to the twentieth century Americanism of Wilson and Truman and Reagan and W. Bush--Americanism as an outward-looking religion with global responsibilities.A yes answer might say that if God gave Biblical antecedents for the freedom of all mankind, He might have put some in the Koran as well . . . A yes answer would try to figure how to play our own religion-based beliefs into a conversation with Islam, as Henry Jaffa seems to argue in the Claremont Review:
In the end we do need to know the real character of Americanism. The secular version is a flat, gray rendition--no color and no fizz--of this extraordinary work of religious imagination: the idea that liberty, equality, and democracy belong to all mankind because God wants them to.
We [are], in short, engaged in telling others to accept the forms of our own political institutions, without reference to the principles or convictions that give rise to those institutions.A no answer, on the other hand, might first start with Islam as anathema to free society, then move to other religious creeds, seeing them through a lens of general suspicion.
Unless we as a political community can by reasoned discourse re-establish in our own minds the authority of the constitutionalism of the Founding Fathers and of Lincoln, of government devoted to securing the God-given equal rights of every individual human being, we will remain ill equipped to bring the fruits of freedom to others.
Is Islam compatible with a free society? Like a Zen koan, this is the question that vexes us.
Our answer of course, might change. The Bush administration has been answering yes for five years. But, inhabiting a democracy, it is of course reflective of and responsive to public sentiment. Several commentators believe that sentiment may be shifting. A piece by Jim Geraghty on his National Review blog wonders if Americans' answer to the key question is changing:
This strikes me as the fallout of the Tipping Point™ - my sense that in recent weeks, a large chunk of Americans just decided that they no longer have any faith in the good sense or non-hostile nature of the Muslim world. If subsequent polls find similar results, the port deal is dead.Perhaps the people's answer to the question is changing.
And what to make of the Manifesto from a dozen European intellectuals, Muslims or former Muslims many of them? How are they answering the key strategic question?
It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism of West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats . . .In Glenn Reynolds' podcast interview with Claire Berlinkski, author of Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Too, she relates this story:
Islamism is a reactionary ideology which kills equality, freedom and secularism wherever it is present. Its success can only lead to a world of domination: man’s domination of woman, the Islamists’ domination of all the others.
Reynolds: You have this wonderful scene in your book where you talk about this, this Englishman of Bengali descent, and he said that when he traveled to the United States, he saw all these immigrants who were US citizens being welcomed by the INS and told, "Welcome home!" And he said, you know, if I ever got that kind of treatment you know when I returned to England, I'd happily lay down my life for England right there . . .In a dissenting statement to the above-mentioned manifesto, Paul Belien in Brussels Journal quotes Dr. Jos Verhulst:
Berlinski: I would have died for England on the spot, that's what he told me. If ever once, someone had said "welcome home" when I showed them my passport at customs and immigration, I would have died for England on the spot.
And now he stands at the dawn of the 21st century: the maligned individual, unsteady on his own feet after executing the inner breach with every form of imposed authority, uncertain, blinking in the brightness of the only god he is willing to recognise – Truth itself, stretching out before him unfathomably deep – full of doubt but aware that he, called to non-submission, must seek the road to the transcendent, carrying as his only property, his most valuable heirloom from his turbulent past, that one gold piece that means the utmost to him, his precious ideal of complete freedom of thought, of speech and of scientific inquiry. That is the unique advance that he received to help him in his long and difficult quest.When I was in Iraq, one Iraqi told me he wished Iraq could be the 51st state in the union. Our experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan seems to indicate that there are many Muslims who would prefer that we answer the key question with a yes, saying to those Muslims who can find Islam compatible with freedom, "Have courage!" and once they've achieved their freedom, "Welcome home!"
Meanwhile he is being beleaguered and threatened on all sides; from out of the darkness voices call him to submit and retreat; they shout that the gold in his hands is worthless, while the brightness ahead of him still makes it almost impossible for him to see what lies in store. In short: what this contemporary individual needs most of all is courage, great courage. And the will to be free and to see, which is tantamount to the will to live.
To what fate are we assigning them if we answer no?
UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! Even though I had no direct quote above, this piece, like most that I do, had a lot of influence from Belmont Club, especially Blowback.
UPDATE2: There seems to be some problem posting comments. The server must be a little slow. It took me several tries to post last night. Thanks for your patience.
February 23, 2006
Has war with Iran begun already?
Back in January, I said:
Here's what I expect in the next 12 months.Is it possible that the Iranians have begun their campaign of terror, but with as much deniability as possible? Let's discuss.
-There will be airstrikes upon Iranian facilities by either the US or Israel.
-There will be catastrophic, if not cataclysmic, terror attacks in various parts of the Middle East, sponsored by Iran or its proxies; The Gulf States, Jordan, Israel, and Iraq are potential targets.
I'm not going to make any definitive statements of causality. Either of the above two events may happen before the other. What happens after those two is anyone's guess. But I think they are both coming, and coming faster than we may all expect.
As far as terrorism and its relationship to a state, Iran presents a different set of circumstances than either Iraq or Afghanistan. Al Qaeda's raid on the eastern seaboard on 9/11 was an act of a transnational terror organization with sanctuary within a state. Afghanistan was a totally willing host to Al Qaeda's parasitic organization. Nevertheless, the Taliban and Al Qaeda were still different organizations, with different goals, intents, and motivations, complementary though they might have been.
In Iraq, terror organizations have yet a different relationship with the state. There they exist as something more akin to a cancer, feeding off the ideological and organizational remnants of the Hussein regime, and attacking the host -- the new Iraqi state, founded in the period of 2004-2005.
But what if terrorism is not just a tactic, or an organization separate from its host state? What if instead, terrorism is part and parcel of the state, and not just a tactic, but key to the national security strategy of a state? What if its institutions are not just cooperative with those of a given state, but nearly completely reliant upon it, even to the point of serving as its proxy?
Something akin to this last scenario describes the relationship of Iran to terrorist outfits, whether Hezbollah, its own internal security organizations, or its Pasdaran officers who have made mischief in all parts of the Muslim world at some point or another. Let us then posit that terrorism in some form is an integral part of Iran's foreign policy.
Allow a slilght digression on the nature of terrorism itself. As much as Al Qaeda or its brethren may wish to inflict massive casualties within the West and the US especially, terrorism is just as much about, well, terrorizing a given audience or constituency. That is to say, even though many forms of it might inflict significant casualties, the ultimate goal is influence. It is meant to change minds. When its perpetrators are known, and terror acts are overt, it might be categorized within that type of operation that the West would know as a "show of force." When its origins are not known, or if it is perhaps not even clear that a certain event has a single human agency behind it, then it seeks other forms of influence -- perhaps to change mindsets or affect policy. In some cases, it might even overlap or be confused with covert action, one of the purposes of which is to affect or change policy without any public knowledge of agency or origin.
The US response to 9/11 -- transformation of two states, and an unremitting pursuit of Al Qaeda in all its forms -- would seem to suggest that overt terrorism does not influence the US in a productive manner. Any organization or state that used terror solely for the purpose of a "show of force" would be looking down the business end of the US military's arsenal with little delay. This is not to suggest that spectacular attacks won't be pursued, just that they might now be most useful only for their destructive power.
But the second kind of terrorism -- deniable, covert, and meant to influence -- might take on a whole new importance. These kinds of attacks might be meant to embarrass the West, harrass it, sow discord among its nations, or alternately (and perhaps not simultaneously) unify the Muslim world against it. What might some of these actions look lilke? Well, perhaps "spontaneous" demonstrations in dozens of countries about something published four months previously in an obscure news organ would fit the bill. Or, perhaps a massive terror attack upon a key Shia shrine, which has thus far not been claimed by Al Qaeda in Iraq, could fit into this category as well.
When considered in the light of the long history of Iran with terror, as both its sponsor and its exporter, one wonders if Iran has begun a new campaign in its quest to achieve nuclear power status with no real objection from the rest of the world. Much of the below has been stated in other venues, but consider each of these points afresh:
-the cartoon controversy did not really begin until after the IAEA had referred Iran to the security council.
-the current chairmanship of the IAEA is held by Denmark.
-some of the worst violence was in Syria, a state where the government controls association, and which is allied with Iran.
And as far as the mosque destruction goes:
-no particular group has claimed responsibility.
-conventional wisdom, correct or not, holds that this act has created one of the highest states of tension in Iraq in some time.
Have these acts been effective in influencing the West? The cartoon controversy might have united the West a bit, but it might have united the Muslim world much more. The mosque destruction is a bit too recent to judge.
One wonders though: how does the US public's reaction to the UAE port deal relate to the cartoon riots? One commentator today (can't find the link) mentioned that it is the reaction of the US public to distrust this transaction when they see that their own government was not forthright enough in supporting Denmark.
One can speculate all night on whether the above two acts are related and how. There are other explanations. Coincidence is one of the easiest.
But all of this raises a larger point: when Americans envision war, we imagine large scale military assaults and operations to neutralize targets, not covert and deniable violence on behalf of influencing public attitudes. Yet this blind spot is exactly what Iran excels at performing, and exactly what vexes Secretary Rumsfeld so much as he laments today in the LA Times:
Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but for the most part we -- our government, the media or our society in general -- have not.I believe our war with Iran has begun.
Consider that violent extremists have established "media relations committees" and have proved to be highly successful at manipulating opinion elites. They plan and design their headline-grabbing attacks using every means of communication to break the collective will of free people.
Strategypage today has a list of "Ten Signs that the United States is about to Bomb Iran." These are things to look for that will indicate an imminent strike by the US, movements of units and materiel and such that intelligence analysts would examine.
Iran is playing quite a different game than us. It seeks a campaign of influence, of which terrorism and rioting might be key components. Iran's campaign needs no top ten signs to detect it. If the period before it was referred to the Security Council might have been called the "diplomatic phase," it is now in the "influence phase," which might last for a long time, and mean no further escalation is necessary. There may be no start or stop, there may be no formal military action, there may be no overt Iranian involvement, but war with Iran will likely look like a series of events, inexplicable and spontaneous, yet which frustrate our aims.
It is a well-crafted strategy really, as it seeks the seams in our defenses. It undermines our cultural assumptions (wars must be declared at a given point, ended at a given point, and fought by uniformed military forces on "battlefields") and even some of our societal organizational seams (media institutions are not part of the governments that fight wars, but are separate, and beheld to different standards).
For those who think I might be some sort of conspiracy nut, consider: a key part of influence is opportunism. I'm not implying that Iran knew the cartoons would be published, or even was behind the Danish imam who first started circulating them. But when you see an opening you seize it. Iran may have had nothing to do with the destruction of the golden mosque, but this doesn't stop Ahmadinejad from fanning the flames of popular emotion by blaming the US or Israel.
Welcome to warfare in the 21st century. What will be next?
UPDATE: Hat-tip to Instapundit for the Strategypage bit. Also, for this piece by Michael Novak:
Naturally, the West is feeling guilty about the cartoons, and chillingly intimidated by the “Muslim reaction”—more exactly, by the contrived, heavily stimulated, long-contained, and deliberately timed demonstrations of focused political outrage against them—while failing to pay serious attention to the truly huge event that started off this week with a great boom.I guess I'm not the only one . . .
That event, I have a hunch, might well be followed by another shocker fairly soon.
For the stakes for Iran—its nuclear future—and for Syria—its safety from within—and for the future of Hamas in Palestine, could scarcely be higher than they are just now. The most organized radical forces are poised to act in great concert. The moment is crucial for their future prospects.
January 31, 2006
State of the Union and Iran
[Comments won't display automatically, but I can see to it that they are published eventually, so comment away.]
Since the State of the Union is tomorrow night, I have one piece of advice for POTUS.
Over the past few weeks, I've discussed the Iran crisis with a variety of people, very intelligent and successful folks, of varying political belief, including the very smart Mrs. Chester.
The thing that has surprised me is their uniform initial reaction to the entire crisis: "Why," they ask, "should the United States not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons? That doesn't seem fair."
It's incredibly frustrating to me to hear this line of thought, and I've tried to counter it in several ways. But it seems to be very common. So my advice to Bush is that if he's going to build support domestically for any kind of action to stop Iran's nuclear program, diplomatic, military, or otherwise, then he needs to address this fundamental question . . .
I have two responses that may be helpful.
First, please take a look at the book, The Shield of Achilles, by Philip Bobbitt.
Turn to the chapter entitled "Challenges to the New International Order," and begin the section, "Nuclear Weapons." This is really a 20-page primer on the nature of both deterrence and non-proliferation since the invention of the darn things. Here are some highlights:
. . . is the possession of whatever weapons a state can acquire and deploy an attribute of sovereignty? For if it is not, then by what right do certain states possess weapons of such awful magnitude? And if it is, how can there ever be measures both appropriate and practical to limit the deployment of such weapons? And finally, even if having a nuclear weapons capability is a condition to which any state may aspire, does the possibility of a widespread nuclear proliferation pose such a threat to the peace and survival of the society of states that what hitherto was a state's sovereign right -- the right to deploy the weapons of its own choosing -- must now be rethought?Iran fails all of these tests. The capabilities of a nuclear Iran WOULD introduce multipolarity into the system of states, its intentions ARE threatening to the legitimate constitutional sovereignty of Israel, and its political culture is NEITHER stable enough to ensure the endurance of benign intentions (which don't exist) NOR does it possess representative institutions coexisting with fundamental human rights.
. . . A nuclear weapons state can be reinforcing for the security of the society of states when its capabilities do not introduce multipolarity into the system, when its intentions do not threaten the legitimate constitutional sovereignty of other states (unless it is attacked), and when its political culture is stable enough to ensure the endurance of such benign intentions. A nuclear weapons state imposes unacceptable risks on the system of deterrence when it threatens to make other states nuclear targets for geopolitical objectives that are incompatible with the maintenance of the current state system, or for geostrategic goals that are incompatible with the stability of the system of nuclear deterrence. In either case, the unpredictability of nuclear attack increases, with potentially devastating consequences for populations and states.
This observation helps us answer the sovereignty question: no state that does not derive its authority from representative institutions that coexist with fundamental human rights can legitimately argue that it can subject its own people to the threat of nuclear pre-emption or retaliation on the basis of its alleged rights of sovereignty because the people it thus makes into nuclear targets have not consented to bear such risks. [emphases in original]
Even so, Bush should not make some grand gesture that were Iran only a democracy, we would condone its nuclear goals. In the following passage, Bobbitt explains why the US shouldn't say, "sure, once you're a democracy, have all the nukes you want."
Thus far I have implied a link between proliferation and deterrence, suggesting that the society of states as a whole can determine when proliferation poses a systemic threat by asking whether a state's acquisition of nuclear weapons strengthens of weakens the prevailing system of nuclear deterrence. That system is currently underpinned by United States nuclear forces. It rests on the assumption that the United States will not use nuclear weapons as a means of aggression, but that it will actually destroy another state if that state cannot be otherwise dissuaded from attacking a state protected by the American nuclear deterrent. If the United States were to change its policies in either aspect, the current system of deterrence would be difficult to sustain, as formerly protected states raced to arm themselves and formerly deterred states began to explore the rewards of coercion.So there you have the first way of explaining why nukes can't be had by Iran. Kudos to the speechwriter who can turn that into a soundbite.
This present system would be gravely undermined by multipolarity -- the acquisition of a third superpower nuclear arsenal -- for two reasons. First, multipolarity introduces a complexity that tends to weaken American commitments by blurring the identity of the states to be deterred: in a tripolar or n-polar world, responsibility is diffused. The persuasiveness of the argument, often heard in the United States during the Cold War, that the United States must act to suppress international violence or parry aggression, because if the United States doesn't, no one else will, fades in a multipolar world. The sheer complexity of deterrence in a multipolar world, coupled with an understandable American willingness to let other powers take up burdens long carried by the United States, creates a situation similar to that of the paralyzed crowds that attend emergencies. Second, the system of deterrence is stressed whenever a crisis triggers the threat of the use of nuclear weapons to deter aggression; such crises call the American bluff and require the United States to run potentially fatal risks to enforce dissuasion. Multipolarity can only increase, perhaps exponentially, the number of nuclear crises. We could have had another system of nuclear deterrence, perhaps managed by other powers, but this is the one we have, and this is the system bequeathed us by the Long War. [emphasis in original]
But here's the second way, just in case it proves too difficult for the White House rhetoricians. From a recent Iran report by Strategic Forecasting:
This, by the way, is a good place to pause and explain to readers who will write in wondering why the United States will tolerate an Israeli nuclear force but not an Iranian one. The answer is simple. Israel will probably not blow up New York. That's why the United States doesn't mind Israel having nukes and does mind Iran having them. Is that fair? This is power politics, not sharing time in preschool. End of digression.
I think the best option is to distill Bobbitt's work above into a political speech using some of it verbatim when necessary, but if that fails, one can always fall back on the preschool option . . .
Let's hope Bush says something about Iran tomorrow . . .
[Coming tomorrow: a movie review!]
January 15, 2006
Niall Ferguson Is Firmly in the Pre-Emption Camp
Harvard's Niall Ferguson, author of "Empire" and "Colossus," has come down firmly on the side of pre-empting Iran's nuclear ambitions:
With every passing year after the turn of the century, the instability of the Gulf region grew. By the beginning of 2006, nearly all the combustible ingredients for a conflict - far bigger in its scale and scope than the wars of 1991 or 2003 - were in place . . .Read the whole thing.
Diplomatic History is Taking Place Even As We Speak
In addition to the much-publicized diplomatic shuffling between the US and the EU, there are other meetings taking place which happen much less frequently, or at all, and which seem to indicate that momentous events behind the scenes, the contents of which we might only speculate upon, are at hand.
Syria's Assad made a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia last week.
The answer to all three might be Iran, or it might not. What is scary is that the answer could be Iran. In short, while Iraq was largely diplomatically, economically, militarily and otherwise isolated from the rest of the world before 2003, Iran is only slightly so today. While Iraq's contacts with the west were abundant via the Oil-for-Food scandal, those contacts were still scandalous. Iran is linked to the economies of Russia & China, has relationships with North Korea, Pakistan, even France, Germany, and the UK.
The relationships which Iran possess do not sum up to a coalition. But they are there nonetheless, making the Iran nut even harder to crack, and the price for miscalculation ever higher.
A History of the Modern World, by R. R. Palmer and Joel Colton:
The Austrian government was determined to make an end to the South Slav separatism that was gnawing its empire to pieces. It decided to crush the independence of Serbia, the nucleus of South Slav agitation, though not to annex it, since there were now thought to be too many Slavs within the emprie already. The Austrian government consulted the German, to see how far it might go with the support of its ally. The Germans, issuing their famous "blank check," encouraged the Austrians to be firm. The Austrians, thus reassured, dispatched a drastic ultimatum to Serbia, demanding among other things that Austrian officials be permitted to collaborate in investigating and punishing the perpetrators of the assassination. The Serbs counted on Russian support, even to the point of war, judging that Russia could not again yield in a Balkan crisis, for the third time in six years, without losing its influence in the Balkans altogether. The Russians in turn counted on France; and France, terrified at the possibility of being some day caught alone in a war with Germany, and determined to keep Russia as an ally at any cost, in effect gave a blank check to Russia. The Serbs rejected the critical item in the Austrian ultimatum as an infringement on Serbian sovereignty, and Austria thereupon declared war upon Serbia. Russia prepared to defend Serbia and hence to fight Austria. Expecting that Austria would be joined by Germany, Russia rashly mobilized its army ono the German as well as the Austrian frontier. Since the power which first mobilized had all the advantages of a rapid offensive, the German government demanded an end to the Russian mobilization on its border and, receiving no answer, declared war on Russia on August 1, 1914. Convinced that France would in any case enter the war on the side of Russia, Germany also declared war on France on August 3rd.
The German decisions were posited on a reckless hope that Great Britain might not enter the war at all . . . The German plan to crush France quickly was such that it could succeed only by crossing Belgium. When the Belgians protested, the Germans invaded anyway, violating the treaty of 1839 which had guaranteed Belgian neutrality. England declared war on Germany on August 4th . . .
As for Russia and Austria, they were both tottering empires. Especially after 1900, the tsarist regime suffered from endemic revolutionism, and the Hapsburg empire from chronic nationalistic agitation. Authorities in both empires became desperate. Like the Serbs, they had little to lose and were therefore reckless. It was Russia that drew France and hence England into war in 1914, and Austria that drew in Germany. Seen in this light, the tragedy of 1914 is that the most backward or politically bankrupt parts of Europe, through the alliance system, dragged the more advanced parts automatically into ruin.
It is not useful to draw analogies among the power relationships, the rising or falling states, or the alliances of 1914 to those that exist today. We live in a new world. But it is useful to consider the enormous complexity of the world then and now, and to realize that complexity offers both opportunities for the art of the deal to thrive, and for miscalculation to lead to utter ruin.
We are blessed to live in the "interesting times" of the old Chinese proverb . . .
January 6, 2006
[Several updates follow the original post. Please scroll down.]
My spider senses are twitching about Iran. I sense a disturbance in the force. Several reports, from different sources -- Strategic Forecasting, the Turkish press, and now RegimeChangeIran -- are all hinting at windows of opportunity that are closing: for the US or Israel to stop Iran's nuclear program, or for Iran to exploit the situation in Iraq to its advantage before democracy takes root.
Pundits are all worked up debating whether 2006 will be like 1994.
Perhaps a better comparison might be 1914. Things might get hairy awful fast in the mid-east. Iran is not just another country; it is an entire Persian civilization with a long history of conquest from Darius and Cyrus fighting the Greeks, to the Sasanians, the Safavids, and the modern state.
The prediction markets currently have a 36% chance of a US or Israeli airstrike on Iran by March of 07. I plan to keep a close eye on these numbers.
Here's what I expect in the next 12 months.
-There will be airstrikes upon Iranian facilities by either the US or Israel.
-There will be catastrophic, if not cataclysmic, terror attacks in various parts of the Middle East, sponsored by Iran or its proxies; The Gulf States, Jordan, Israel, and Iraq are potential targets.
I'm not going to make any definitive statements of causality. Either of the above two events may happen before the other. What happens after those two is anyone's guess. But I think they are both coming, and coming faster than we may all expect.
I have a bad feeling about this.
UPDATE: Many assume that Iran would not overtly use terror or the deterrent effects of its new nukes to its own gain in the immediate future, thinking instead that things would settle into a "cold war" of sorts.
This represents a best-case and is foolhardy for planning purposes. As usual in strategy, Iran's advantage rests in its ability to exploit seams; at the moment there is quite a transitional seam in Israeli politics and therefore policy. If there were plans on the drawing board for an Israeli strike, they are being shelved for sure. We are about to encounter another seam via the US election as well, wherein the entire Congress temporarily becomes entranced by domestic concerns and local politics.
If Iran declares itself a nuclear power, the institutions, systems, policies and governments of the region and the world will not just snap into a new paradigm of a "cold war" with Iran, though in the longer term, that is certainly probable. Instead, from the moment Iran makes the announcement, or detonates a bomb, a new seam begins between the old policy regimes and the new. And there lies Iran's advantage. Much hay can be made while the capitals of the west are engaged in debate on a response.
I'm calling it like I see it.
UPDATE2: Welcome, Instapundit readers.
UPDATE3: Between reading reader comments this evening, I was perusing a chapter in Grand Strategies in War and Peace entitled "British Grand Strategy in World War I" by Sir Michael Howard. This section struck me as particularly relevant to our current discussion on Iran:
In 1915, whatever British strategists may have intended, the eastern front was the major theater because the Germans had decided to make it so. During the course of that year the German armies in the east inflicted such drastic defeats on Russia that her Western allies began to doubt her capacity, and even more the will of her government to carry on the war at all. It was the need to relieve the pressure in the east that compelled the French and the British armies to continue their offensive on the western front. There was no longer any expectation of a strategic breakthrough leading to a major decision: the object now was to pin down the German forces and exhaust them. It was a strategy determined by the French High Command, and one into which Kitchener allowed himself to be drawn only very unwillingly. But if he did not do so, he feared, not only the Russians but even the French (who had already suffered over a million casualties) might be tempted to make peace. It was at this stage that the truth broke in on him that one has to make war, not as one would like to, but as one must.[emphasis added]Are we not perhaps in a similar situation with Iran? As much as Kitchener would have preferred to use British naval forces to merely blockade Germany, or to invade from the south, via the Dardanelles as Churchill disastrously suggested, thereby taking pressure off the Russians in the east, but without going straight into the maw of the enemy on the west, as much as he would have preferred these alternatives, he slowly realized that they would not work. And he was forced to fight the war in a much less than ideal fashion.
Here we are again. As much as we might like to a) have the EU diplomacy work or b) have no insurgency in Iraq simultaneous to this crisis or c) have a larger ground force in readiness or d) have more perfect intelligence or e) just let Israel do it, as much as we might prefer those things, they either aren't available or they won't work.
Iraq, as messy as it is, has perhaps spoiled us still for what war really is: a situation wherein every alternative is equally unpalatable, but in which one must act, must do something, risking possible defeat from the choice taken against certain defeat from the failure to choose at all.
UPDATE4: There is now a French-language trackback to this post, so I thought I'd investigate. The author is, of all people, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Swiss Army. Using the SYSTRAN Language Translation Technology, I translated his post and will copy it into the extended entry of this post, so click "Read More" if you are interested. His bio is here and you can translate that with Systran as well if you'd like. Certainly interesting: from private to LtCol in 9 years. Seems, impressive, oui?
UPDATE5: While we're all considering all the ifs, ands and buts to the Iran situation, I encourage those who haven't to read an article by Mark Helprin in the Claremont Review of Books, entitled "Let Us Count the Ways." Here is an excerpt particular to Iran:
Take for example Iran, a peripheral state that is nonetheless the most powerful and belligerent sponsor of terrorism remaining in the Middle East and indeed in the world. This is a country of 73 million, with a formidable military and difficult mountainous terrain. It is not, absent the kind of mass and power the United States and NATO needlessly relinquished at the Cold War's end, a country to invade, even in the "in-and-out" style advocated herein. And yet it has acquired and is acquiring intermediate-range ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons, it is a habitual and recidivist supporter of terrorism, and its legislature frequently opens with chants of "Death to America."The sections I cut from the quote were mainly related to the 2004 election, the time when his piece was written. Helprin is an unabashed realist, and disagrees with the democracy push in the Arab world, a point on which I disagree with him. But man, do I love the way he thinks. Even with our forces still engaged in Iraq, there is absolutely nothing militarily to prevent us from executing the punitive actions he describes. Nothing. If we have but the will, it can happen tomorrow. And as he astutely mentions, the mere threat of such a program may be enough to cow Iran into abandoning its nuclear schemes.
We treat this obvious threat as if it were insurmountable, because due to our insufficient preparation, current deployments, and strategical blindness, at the moment, it is. The administration has no policy . . .
. . . Meanwhile, Iran shelters al-Qaeda, acquires missiles, and races toward nuclear armament.
But were the open and bleeding flank in Iraq closed, the center safely held, and the American military properly supplied, rebuilt, and rejuvenated, the sure way to strip Iran of its nuclear potential would be clear: issuance of an ultimatum stating that we will not allow a terrorist state, the legislature of which chants like a robot for our demise, to possess nuclear weapons; clearing the Gulf of Iranian naval and coastal defense forces; cutting corridors across Iran free of effective anti-aircraft capability; surging carriers to the Gulf and expeditionary air forces to Saudi Arabia; readying long-range heavy bombers in this country and Guam; setting up an unparalleled search and rescue capability. If then our conditions were unmet, we could destroy every nuclear, ballistic-missile, military research, and military technical facility in Iran, with the promise that were the prohibited activities to resume and/or relocate we would destroy completely the economic infrastructure of the country, something we could do in a matter of days and refresh indefinitely, with nary a boot on the ground. That is the large-scale option, necessary only if for some reason the destruction of Iran's nuclear facilities could not, as is likely, be accomplished by stealth bombers and cruise missiles. The almost complete paralysis of its economy, should it be called for, could be achieved with the same instruments plus naval gunfire and blockade.
UPDATE6: More fuel for the fire. Here's an excerpt from a recent report by Strategic Forecasting entitled, "The Iraqi Election's Effects, from Washington toTehran:"
One of the unremarkable constants in the Middle East of late is how hands-off a position the Israelis have been taking on everything. Threatening not-so-subtly to take action against Israel is old hat, but doing so against the background of increasingly touchy nuclear negotiations is another issue entirely. When the Iranian president began saying that Israel should be wiped off the map -- or at least moved to Alaska -- the Israelis obediently perked up and began dusting off battle plans to neutralize (read: nuke) Iran, with March bandied about as a realistic timeframe.Hmmm.
There are many things that could complicate U.S. goals in the Middle East, but none would do so more efficiently than Israeli missiles striking Iran. Since the last thing the United States needs is an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran, and the second-to-last thing the United States wants is a new war in Iran, the Iranians are betting that the Americans will try to placate them as Washington does with North Korea.
What the Iranians want, of course, are guarantees on future Iraqi policy. They also want to make certain that their Baathist enemies are never again in a position to return to power. And they are expecting the United States to guarantee all these things. Of course the Sunnis are expecting the United States to guarantee their interests. The Kurds have always relied on the United States. And the Israelis want to make sure that the Iranian nuclear threat is not left to them to handle. Each has its own threat. The Sunnis can crank up the insurgency. The Shia can invite in more Iranians. The Kurds can try to instigate an uprising in Turkey (or Iraq, Iran or Syria). The Iranians can threaten Israel with nuclear weapons, and the Israelis can threaten a preemptive strike.
Washington does not want any of these things. That means the United States must juggle a series of nearly incompatible interests to get a situation where it can draw down its troops. On the other hand, the Shia need the Americans to protect them from the Sunnis and the Iranians. The Sunnis need the Americans to protect them from the Shia. The Kurds need the Americans to protect them from the Turks (and the Sunnis). The Iranians need the Americans to protect them from the Israelis. And the Israelis generally need the Americans.
So, there is enough symmetry in the situation that the Bush administration might just be able to pull it off. What "it" consists of is less clear and less important than the balancing act that precedes it. It is in that balancing act that the United States reduces its forces, pushes al-Zarqawi to the wall, plays Iraqi and Iranian Shia against each other and gives the Iranians enough to keep them from going nuclear before Washington is ready to deal with the issue on its terms. It is dizzying, but that's what happens when war plans don't work out on the field the way they did in the computer -- which is usually. The administration has actually crafted something resembling a solution, or a solution has presented itself. Between that and polls that are a bit above awful, there is a chance the situation could work out in the administration's favor.
However, as all of this suggests, a final agreement is not only nowhere in sight, but not even in mind. Any conclusive agreement that would be acceptable to one group would be unacceptable to at least one other. In fact, the only thing that all of the domestic players agree on is that Washington has a role to play as the ultimate guarantor of any new government. The United States has no problem with this save one condition: that Washington is not responsible for day-to-day security. That in turn requires one item: a functional, united Iraqi army. That too has a precondition: a united army must include the Sunnis. Again, there is a follow on: the only Sunnis with military expertise are the Baathists.
Of all the possible Iraqi arrangements, the one that terrifies Iran is the one that is actually happening: a political agreement, with the support of all the local players, that involves a united, functional military complete with unrepentant Baathist elements. Memories of the 1980-1988 war are suddenly running a lot closer to the surface. Iran's biggest problem in challenging this scenario is that it does not have an effective lever. All of the Iraqi power brokers have signed on for their own reasons, and no one -- even the Iraqi Shia leadership -- believes Tehran would offer a better deal.
Which means that the only power Tehran can talk to is the one player that has no interest in talking to it if Iraq is about to be settled: the United States.
Since Washington is trying to avoid an Israeli preemptive strike against Tehran, the United States suddenly has an interest in making Israel feel better. To do that, it needs to get the Iranians under control. To do that, it needs to talk to the Iranians. And now we have Iran with something the United States wants (an Israel that is not about to go ballistic) and the United States with something Iran wants (an Iraq that Iran can tolerate).
The United States is not going to hand Iraq over to Iran, but should Tehran choose to complicate matters, neither is the United States going to be able to withdraw its forces.
Within that imbroglio there is room for compromise: have the United States -- via a permanent occupation -- guarantee Iraqi neutrality. An Iraq with 165,000 U.S. troops is in neither Iran's nor the United States' interest, but an Iraq with 40,000 troops at bases in the western Iraqi desert is. It is enough of a force to prevent unsavory governments from arising, but not enough to make Iran fear that Tehran could be flying the Stars and Stripes after a hectic weekend.
Looking at headlines, here's some that catch my eye related to the scenario above:
"I am running out of patience, the international community is running out patience, the credibility of the verification process is at stake and I'd like - by March - which is when my next report is, to be able to clarify these issues," he said.That makes yet another mention of the magical date of March, 2006 . . .
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said yesterday that the United States and its European allies have the votes to bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council for possible censure over its nuclear ambitions, signaling increasing skepticism that continued negotiations with Iran will ever succeed.Could we see a UN Security Council resolution push by the United States beginning in March? The StratFor piece assumes that Israel would not just attempt to hit Iranian nuke facilities by airstrike, but would attempt to nuke Iran pre-emptively. I'm willing to bet that we can lean on the Israelis and get them to hold off on such an adventure while we let diplomacy run its course.
The questions are: how long does diplomacy have? what happens when it doesn't work? What might the UN resolution call for? And how does the mid-term congressional election impact the US decision-cycle, if at all?
Something else interesting: Getting Ready for a Nuclear-Ready Iran is a report by the Strategic Studies Institute which looks certainly relevant. Here is the synopsis (sorry --haven't read the whole thing):
As Iran edges closer to acquiring a nuclear bomb and its missiles extend an ever darker diplomatic shadow over the Middle East and Europe, Iran is likely to pose three threats. First, Iran could dramatically up the price of oil by interfering with the free passage of vessels in and through the Persian Gulf as it did during the l980s or by threatening to use terrorist proxies to target other states’ oil facilities. Second, it could diminish American influence in the Gulf and Middle East by increasing the pace and scope of terrorist activities against Iraq, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf states, Israel, and other perceived supporters of the United States. Finally, it could become a nuclear proliferation model for the world and its neighbors (including many states that otherwise would be more dependent on the United States for their security) by continuing to insist that it has a right to make nuclear fuel under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and then withdrawing once it decides to get a bomb. To contain and deter Iran from posing such threats, the United States and its friends could take a number of steps: increasing military cooperation (particularly in the naval sphere) to deter Iranian naval interference; reducing the vulnerability of oil facilities in the Gulf outside of Iran to terrorist attacks, building and completing pipelines in the lower Gulf region that would allow most of the non-Iranian oil and gas in the Gulf to be exported without having to transit the Straits of Hormuz; diplomatically isolating Iran by calling for the demilitarization of the Straits and adjacent islands, creating country-neutral rules against Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty state members who are suspected of violating the treaty from getting nuclear assistance from other state members and making withdrawal from the treaty more difficult; encouraging Israel to set the pace of nuclear restraint in the region by freezing its large reactor at Dimona and calling on all other states that have large nuclear reactors to follow suit; and getting the Europeans to back targeted economic sanctions against Iran if it fails to shut down its most sensitive nuclear activities.The authors of the study appear to think the clock is not ticking quite as fast as those of us here in the blogosphere. But these are all diplomatic actions we might look for in the next few months.
This is all just fascinating.
June 9, 2005
Is the Revolution starting?
Iran is going nuts. It has just achieved a seat for the World Cup and there are massive demonstrations, tied into political protests against the regime. Go to Regime Change Iran and just keep scrolling.
June 5, 2005
Iran News Roundup from RegimeChangeIran
DoctorZin provides a review of this past week's [5/29-6/4] major news events regarding Iran.
Iran's Presidential Elections:
- Townhall.com reported that the son of the late Shah said, Boycott Iran's Sham Election.
- Payvand reported that Iranian students wonder whether they should vote.
- The Peninsula reported that Iran's reformist camps faces a dilemma: Change or drop out.
- Khaleej Times reported the brother of Iran's president was assaulted by hardliners at pro-reform rally: party.
- Reuters reported that Iran's leading reformist presidential candidate, Moin, launched a radical platform, promising profound reviews of the Islamic state's political structure and of Tehran's relations with the United States.
- Iran Focus reported an Iranian survey predicts: 92 percent of voters to stay away from presidential polls.
- Khaleeji Times reported that Rafsanjani said the Islamic regime needed a radical rethink of the way it deals with the international community. Rafsanjani's student supporters.
- Agence Franc Presse reports that the Iranian public is being told, voting is as important as praying.
- Ekbatan Observer Blog reported amongst Iranian political activists boycotting this election is the only honorable option left to the citizens.
- Answers.com provides a useful briefing on "who's who" in the Iranian Presidential elections, set for June 17.
- OpenDemocracy.com reported that Rafsanjani says he has spent all his money.
- LA Times reports that recent moves by Khamenei removed whatever tiny doubt remained about who calls the political shots: What he says, goes.
- The Associated Press reported that U.S. intelligence and foreign allies have growing evidence that wanted terrorists have been residing in Iran.
- SMCCDI reported that many believe the murder of an Iranian residing in France is the work of Islamic regime's notorious hit squads.
- Kuwait News Agency reported that Yemen condemned clerics to death on charge of spying for Iran.
- Reuters reported that Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had fled the country after being seriously injured in a U.S. missile attack and may have been moved to Iran. The Iranians denied this. Dan Darling and Richard Miniter weigh in. Finally, Donald Rumsfeld warned Iraq's neighbors not to shelter Zarqawi.
- Arutz Sheva asked, Does Iran Already Have Nuclear Weapons?
- Sunday Times reported that Iran announced that it had successfully tested a new solid fuel missile motor for its arsenal of medium-range ballistic missiles.
- Yahoo! News reported a statement President
Bush made may have misled the Iranians into thinking Washington is open
to their being able to enrich uranium to low levels.
- VOA News reported that Condoleezza Rice says she hopes Iran is ready to support stability and democracy in Iraq rather than interfering in its affairs.
- Expatica reported that President Bush said the United States would not compromise with Iran on the uranium enrichment issue.
- The Hill reported that members of Congress push tougher line on Iran.
- The New York Times reported that the
Bush administration is preparing to discuss efforts to join forces with
other nations in intercepting weapons and missile technology bound for
- VOA News reported that Nicholas Burns as saying, Iran presents a serious challenge to the United States and other democratic countries.
- The Associate Press reported that President Bush says it was a "reasonable decision" to let Iran apply for membership in the WTO.
- Bloomberg reported that the US Secretary of State Condi Rice says nuclear material headed to Iran intercepted.
- The Jerusalem Post reported that the Bush administration is revising its counter-terrorism strategy.
- WebIndia123.com reported that Secretary of State Condi Rice
described Iran's elections as "a country where an un-elected few
continue to suppress the desires of its people for democratic elections." Iran responded.
- Washington Times reported that U.S. lawmakers and former military officers are backing the MEK.
- Iran Focus reported Iranian political prisoners announced are going on a hunger strike.
- Iran va Jahan reminded us that the offspring of dictators openly and baldly flaunt the most basic laws, this is true in Iran.
- Islamic Republic News Agency reported that a group of women from "Women Activists Movement" staged a protest.
- Yahoo News took a look at Hashem Aghajari -- the dissident.
- Photos of Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji at home.
- Iran Press Service reported that Iranian dissident Qasem Sho'leh Sa'di was prevented from leaving Iran.
- BosNewsLife News Center reported that an Islamic court acquitted Christian lay pastor Hamid Pourmand on apostasy.
- Yahoo News reported on Iranian bloggers.
- Wired reports on the end of the Iranian blog spring.
- OhMyNews.com reported on the influence of weblogs has spread to every aspect of Iranian people's daily lives.
- SMCCDI reported Iran's soccer victory over N. Korea leads to mass celebration and unrest. More.
- SMCCDI reported that Iranians boycotted massively the commemorative or official ceremonies marking the 16th anniversary of the death of Khomeini.
- Iran Focus reported that Tehran students protested against paramilitary forces.
- SMCCDI reported that several of the Islamic regime's plainclothes agents were gunned down in the rebellious City of Esfahan.
- SMCCDI reported that students of Shiraz University protested against the persistent repression in Iran. Photos.
- SMCCDI reported that sporadic clashes happened at Khoy University, in western Iran.
- SMCCDI reported of sporadic clashes between dissident students and the Bassij students at the Amir Kabir University. Photos. More Photos.
- SMCCDI reported that the body of a young man who was hanged from a tree has been found in the rebellious City of Eslamshahr. A MUST READ!
- Photos of Iranian students supporting imprisoned dissident Akbar Ganji.
- Photos of Iranian students asking people to boycott the upcoming elections.
- RegimeChangeIran.com asked blogs to join the "Blogosphere Supports Real Democracy in Iran" Campaign. MSNBC gave us an encouraging plug.
- Iran va Jahan reported that Reza Pahlavi warned European leaders.
- SOSIran.com has just released a petition directed at the leaders of the G8 nations.
- Asian News International Iran is reportedly contemplating to hold a trilateral meeting with India and Pakistan.
- Adnkronos International reported that Iranians living abroad have accumulated more than a trillion dollars in earnings.
- People's Daily (China) reported that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has proposed that all Muslims take what he calls the "Great Islamic Middle East" initiative to counter the US "Great Middle East" plan.
- The American Spectator asked, if France can have a referendum, why not Iran?
- NBC News reporter Tom Brokaw was in Tehran and produced three reports on : Women, the elections and nuclear issue. Video clips.
- Investors.com blamed former President Jimmy Carter for our problems with Iran and Islamic terrorism.
- Ryan Mauro has just published an interview with me regarding current events in Iran and possible U.S. options.
- Dennis Ross claimed, the
Iranians seem to believe they can continue to move incrementally toward
developing fissile material openly and clandestinely and without
incurring any real costs--and recent history would suggest they're right.
- The Washington Institute suggested three things the U.S. can do to signal its support for the promotion of democracy in Iran.
- Charles R. Kesler took a close look at Democracy and the Bush Doctrine.
- Henry Sokolski, Policy Review took a serious look at our options at defusing Iran’s bomb.
- The Washington Institute reviewed the "Lawful Crimes" in Iran.
- The Middle East Economic and Political Analysis issued a report, Iran's Nuclear Programme - Assessment of Goals and Future Actions.
- Michael Ledeen warned that President Bush is drifting in his war on terror.
- The Boston Globe interviewed Gene Sharp, author of 'From Dictatorship to Democracy," about how to turn nonviolence into a weapon against totalitarian regimes.
Reza Pahlavi, who has lived in the U.S. since his father was overthrown in the 1979 Islamic revolution, said:
Iran was the only country in the world "whose written constitution specifically denies that sovereignty belongs to its citizens."
May 2, 2005
RegimeChangeIran's Week in Review 4/30/2005
DoctorZin provides a review of this past week's [4/24-4/30] major news events regarding Iran.
Iran's Presidential Elections:
- The Washington Times published an analysis of the coming Iranian Presidential election, plus my thoughts. Plus an Iran Press Service report.
- Adnkronos International reported that European diplomats have reacted enthusiastically to Iran's former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's decision to run for Iran's Presidency.
- AlJazeera.com reported Rafsanjani confirmed he’s running for Iran’s presidency.
- The Christian Science Monitor wrote about Rafsanjani and his past.
- The Washington Times described Rafsanjani as a "radical moderate?" Plus radical quotes from Rafsanjani.
- BBC News reported that Nobel
Prize winner Shirin Ebadi's human rights group has criticisms the fact
that women will not be allowed to run in Iran's June presidential
- Hoder reported Iranian Presidential candidate Larijani has been officially announced as the preferred candidate of conservatives.
- The New York Times reported that even with promises of $60 to vote, Iranian candidates fail to rouse Iran's voters.
- Dow Jones Newswires reported that for the U.S. "who becomes Iran 's president doesn't really matter. What's important is what he does with the job."
- Reuters reported that Rafsanjani said uranium enrichment is a right that Iran will never give up and Iran's suspension of uranium enrichment activities, which can produce bomb-grade fuel, will not last long.
- Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Spain will seek to help resolve Iran's nuclear dossier.
- Reuters reported the EU3 and Iran failed to reach agreement over Tehran's nuclear program. The EU3 are waiting for the June 17 elections. Plus, why this was the worst possible response.
- The Associated Press reported that Iran warned the EU3 that it is "very critical" for progress be seen in the talks scheduled for Friday or Iran will restart its uranium enrichment program.
- Financial Times reported that the EU3 is facing one of the biggest tests yet of its policy on Iran's nuclear programme.
- I predicted the EU3 will find a way to postpone the negotiations until after the Iranian Presidential elections, June 17.
- Reuters reported a EU3 diplomat saying "We are on the defensive now," in our negotiations with Iran.
- Expatica reported that the EU3 are to ask Iran to postpone the resumption of nuclear talks until after presidential elections, 17 June - then it was officially denied.
- Dow Jones Newswires reported that the Council of Europe Tuesday called on Iran to abide by the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
- FOX News reported that Iranians shrug off the prospect of U.N. sanctions for good reason: Tehran has powerful friends.
- Reuters reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin, hardened his line toward Iran's nuclear program, and that Tehran needed to do more to assure the world.
- United Press International reported on Russia's Position on Iran.
- The Wall Street Journal reported on why Iran is in violation with the NPT.
- The VOA News reported that delegates from more than 180 countries will take part in the Non-Proliferation Treaty review conference, May 2-27.
- The Christian Science Monitor said we need a stricter NTP treaty.
- The VOA News reported that the
IAEA held a special closed-door session to decide whether to give its
current chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, another term as director general.
- Reuters reported that the Russian nuclear fuel shipments for a Moscow-built nuclear reactor in Iran are set to begin soon.
- Adventures of Chester posted his thoughts on the FoxNews Special on Iran: The Nuclear Threat.
- The VOA News reported on the latest terrorist convention in Tehran.
- Islamic republic News Agency reported "For the People of Iran, Vote Blair Out."
- The White House, President Bush's Remarks - excerpts on Iran.
- U.S. Department of State published its Country Reports on Terrorism 2004 saying Iran remained the most active state sponsor of terrorism in 2004.
- The Forward reported that American action against Iran's nuclear program is being threatened by a stalled presidential nomination and the sudden dismissal of two officials at AIPAC.
- The Los Angeles Times reported that the Bush administration has decided to avoid any immediate confrontation Hezbollah.
- Tehran Times, a mouth piece of the Iranian regime is worried about the possibility of John Bolton becoming the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
- The International Herald Tribune reported that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that he did not foresee a military strike by the United States on Iran.
- United Press International reported that Britain will not support the United States in military action against Iran.
- The Financial Times reported that the Bush administration has proposed providing Israel with 100 “bunker-buster” bombs capable of destroying underground targets. Israel already has this technology.
- FOX News spoke with two retired generals and a military expert, who outlined some of the options on the table for the Pentagon regarding Iran.
- WorldNetDaily.com reported that Iran is already testing EPT ballistic missiles specifically designed to destroy America's technical infrastructure, effectively neutralizing the world's lone superpower. Then an Iranian military journal discusses the idea.
- The American Thinker reported that the London Arab daily Al-Hayat published a report on Iran's current preparedness for an American or Israeli attack.
- AmericanDaily.com asked "Could Iran Checkmate America?"
- Turkish Press reported that an
Iranian hardline political watchdog has ordered that a contract with
Turkish telecoms company Turkcell for Iran's second mobile telephone
network must undergo more changes.
- Iran Focus reported that the European Parliament adopted a resolution yesterday, calling on Iran to end its increasing human rights violations.
- Iran Mania reported that police in the Iranian capital are poised to launch a fresh crack down targeting "models of corruption" (women not politicians).
- IranMania reported Iran's
parliament voted to suspend a law passed by their reformist
predecessors that was aimed at giving journalists fairer trials.
- Reporters Without Borders called for the immediate release of reformist Iranian Arab journalist Yosef Azizi Banitrouf.
- Agence France-Presse reported that an
Iranian student detained for taking part in anti-regime demonstrations
has been sentenced to 18 months behind bars and 76 lashes.
- Khaleej Times Online reported that the mayor of Iran’s second largest city has been beaten up after he challenged workers on an illegal construction site. It was reported to have been set upon for five hours.
- Reuters is reported that Iranian authorities are rounding up ringleaders of ethnic unrest in the oil-rich southwest.
- Adnkronos International reported that amid ongoing ethnic unrest in southern Iran, a well-known human rights activist and spokesman for the ethnic Arab minority, Youssef Azizi ben Torof, was arrested.
- ICFTU OnLine reported that independent labour activists in Iran are planning once again to hold May Day celebrations, despite fears of a repetition of last year's arrests.
- Iranian.ws reported that the Islamic Republic is the biggest threat to Iran's territorial integrity.
- The Adventures of Chester suggests we could see the first digital coup in Iran.
- National Iranian American Council, promoted a "poll" claiming that 4 out of 5 Iranian/Americans oppose House Resolution 282 and S.333. Iranian expatriate disputes it.
- WorldNetDaily.com reported that Dr. Corsi's 'Atomic Iran' TV ad have been rejected by some broadcasters.
- The Jerusalem Post reported on a worldwide day of protest last week hoping to "break the silence" of the violation of human rights in Iran.
- WorldNetDaily.com reported that the organizers of the "Iran Liberty Walk" to promote peaceful, democratic change in Tehran announced the 209-mile route.
- BBC News, published On This Day In History: 1980,Tehran hostage rescue mission fails. Plus more reflections on the day: WorldNetDaily.com and American Forces Press Service.
- Zeenews.com reported that Iraq's new leaders are saying that an Islamic regime will not be allowed in Iraq.
- Deutsche Welle reported Iran dismissed a report that it bought equipment from Germany for its ballistic missile program.
- Iran Focus reported that Iran's President Khatami said "Today’s world is suffering from the legitimising of fascism and ... the United Nation’s General Secretary is leading the way."
- Payvand's Iran News published a report on Iran’s Foreign Policy & its Key Decision Makers.
- FrontPageMagazine.com hosted another symposium, Terrorism: How to defeat it the future of terror. Our friend Dan Darling was a participant.
Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said:
"human rights are a weapon in the hands of our enemies to fight Islam."
April 27, 2005
Iran: The Blogosphere Option?
Nearly every post here discussing Iran has resulted in the following consensus: the US has few good options for dealing with the situation. [See The Future of the Iranian Nuclear Program, Part V (with links to the other four, back on the ole blogger site), and more recently, Post-show thoughts for Fox's "Iran: The Nuclear Threat"]
So, looking for some more options that we hadn't really discussed yet, I turned to the resident members of the State Department Republican Underground: Dr. Demarche and George Smiley, over at The Daily Demarche. My question to them was:
Since you are members of the DoS underground, I thought I'd ask for your thoughts on US diplomatic options for dealing with Iran. I've written a post today at Adventures dealing with military options and would like to examine the full spectrum.Here's what they said:
What do you think?
Regarding the situation in Iran. I don't have any real experience in Iranian affairs (consider this a disclaimer so that I can't be accused of revealing classified). But I can say that the situation wrt Iran is basically like being stuck in between several rocks and hard places. The most robust diplomatic solution, referring Iran to the UNSC, is still a relatively feckless one. Ultimately, I wouldn't be surprised if that's where the whole case winds up, but by then it may be too late. Containing Iran like we tried to do to Saddam won't work.and Dr. Demarche:
One thing we can do is crack down, via initiatives like the Proliferation Security Initiative, on the peripheral aspects of the weapons program -- keep them from getting more materiel, etc. Covert operations could play a part in removing some of the key components from the picture (please note, this is my personal opinion, I have no special knowledge in this case). I would personally consider a combination of the above mentioned things the best option, because as you noted in your post, none of the military options are particularly appealing.
I think that there is a real possibility that we could see the first digital coup in Iran- with a massive majority of the population under thirty and the huge amount of Internet activity in Iran IMO we should be working to bring about change through the hopes and demands of the people.Hmmm. So the diplomatic options are thin as well. Looks like they are both leaning toward Step One in Chester's Goldplated All-Purpose Iran Plan:
Foment revolution in Iran; support protests and publicize the same; support anti-regime organizations, if possible, train them, and if possible, carve out a small portion of the country to use as a safe haven while doing so. If you can't, then build a few camps in Iraq. When the revolution happens, it will have an Iranian face. Publicity is key. There is a lot about protests in Iran in one-off press sources. These need to be featured in mainstream news outlets, Lebanon-style. Iran needs to have a Ukraine, or Lebanon moment. Like the guy standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen, but before the ensuing slaughter. Do all you can to support dissidents, dissent, protests, etc. We here in the blogosphere are happy to help anytime.Looks like Wretchard has come to some similar conclusions about the military possibilities over at Belmont Club:
It is reasonable to speculate that while the US will improve its capability to attack directly, it is really deployed to confront the Iranian regime indirectly. US organizing efforts in Kurdistan, Afghanistan and in Central Asia have opened clandestine highways into Iran . . .Note Dr. Demarche's phrase "digital coup." Iran is a place with a high density of computer-literate bloggers. The Iranian blogs entry on Wikipedia states that Iranian web logs account for some "65,000 out of an estimated 2,000,000" (no date given) and points out that Persian is the fourth most used language on the internet . . .
When Richard Perle testified before House Armed Services Committe in April 2005 he summed up what he had learned from the Iraq campaign. None of his regrets had to do with military shortcomings. The deficiencies in the American campaign were in the political sphere. He spoke of the need to create indigenous groups sympathetic to democratic aims before taking on a tyranny and of involving them immediately in the governance of the country . . .
Although Perle was ostensibly discussing the Iraqi campaign, his reflections were not made in the context of a disinterested academic inquiry into past events but as lessons meant to be applied to future campaigns; i.e. Iran. This suggests that long before the US attempts a direct assault on the Iranian regime it will probably attempt to achieve each of the three things Perle mentioned: a relationship with a partner Iranian group; the development of a popular desire to overthrow the Mullahs; and a commanding intelligence picture . . .
So if there is to be some sort of digital coup in Iran, the blogosphere will play a big part.
What role might we bloggers here in the US play? How can we help?
Putting my old staff officer thinking cap back on, here's some thoughts:
1. If a popular protest of large proportions begins in Iran, the we sympathetic bloggers must do all we can to draw attention to it. Experience shows that when we concentrate our energies, we can either get the mainstream press to look closely at something they otherwise would have skipped, or can alert US readers to the size and scope of major events abroad. We can do some pretty impressive things if we focus our collective attention somewhere.
2. The government of Iran seems to me to be in a much stronger position than that of Syria in Lebanon, or even the outgoing regime in Ukraine. Iran seems much more likely to crush any incipient rebellion -- even a popular, peaceful movement. This week alone, Iran has cut off internet service in areas with protests.
3. The clock is ticking: seems like the upcoming elections on June 17th could be the big moment.
Conclusion: If we, being the blogosphere, are going to have any blogging role in supporting dissidents, protests, and rebellion in Iran, then we need to lay some groundwork now to build some communication channels that will come in handy later. Some ideas:
US-Iranian partner bloggers: Sort of a pen-pal program for bloggers in the US and in Iran. Establishes a communication link. Casual interaction like this could be very useful at building speedy communications over a period of time.
Redundancy in communications links: if the government is going to shut down ISPs, we need some workarounds to get the stories out. Otherwise, the lights will be out here in the blogosphere, and we'll all be prisoners to whatever the networks and NPR toss up there. What about:
-phone cards so folks can call in stories from land lines in Iran? Would the government shut all of those down too?
-setting up networks of bloggers in neighboring countries (Iraq? Afghanistan? the Gulf States? who could receive phone calls from Iranians, then turn their reports into blog posts?
-old school: HAM radio operators?
-if we really want to get a little crazy, sat phones? this is not only expensive, but hard to choose who to get them to, and probably risky for the Iranians to have them . . .
I'm trying to be creative. There's always the old standbys: raising money, and writing letters/emails.
Of course, I'm ignoring language barriers for the moment. And we certainly wouldn't want to do anything that would cause Iranian bloggers to get into hot water. Iran already likes to imprison its bloggers.
I'm spitballing here, folks. What do you think?
I'm notifying my normal list of this post, but I've especially asked for comments from Publius, Regime Change Iran, Chrenkoff, and if it's not too much trouble for the busy folks there, Spirit of America.
But I'd really like ideas from anyone out there. Please comment. We're in full brainstorming mode here at TAOC.
UPDATE: See this NRO article, with some ideas from Michael Ledeen:
Michael Ledeen — one of those wonky "neocons" from the American Enterprise Institute (and a regular NRO-er) — has a wish list for Iran, but it isn't a massive army going invading the country or the dangerous pacifism of Armitage, either.If this country can raise $1bn in private funds for tsunami relief, I'll bet we can raise enough for a strike fund and some laptops.
Ledeen wants serious "criticism of their regime from our leaders." Americans should know the names of the Iranian dissidents. Ledeen encourages "calls for the release of political prisoners — by name." America can help the reform movement in Iran, he says, through "broadcasts, both from official and private radios and televisions, explaining the basic methods of non-violent conflict; financial support to build a strike fund for workers, teachers and students."
"Those are the minimum things," Ledeen underscores. "Plus get them good communications devices, servers, laptops, cell phones, etc." In other words, they need a rhetorical boost from the leader of the free world, and they need some tools.
April 24, 2005
Post-show thoughts for Fox's "Iran: The Nuclear Threat"
Overall, a pretty good overview from Fox. Thoughts on the various options:
First, the Israeli strike option. I'm sure many others have pointed the following out already, but there are many many differences between Osirak in 1981 and Iran in 2005:
1. The distance: It was hard enough for the Israelis to reach Iraq. Any targets in Iran would be twice as far. Do the Israelis have an aerial refueling capability? If so, where would it be based?
2. The overflights: The 1981 strike required sneaking through Jordan. To hit Iran, there would be no sneaking through Iraq: The US has that airspace sliced and diced every which way. We would know what they were doing. The rest of the world would know we knew too, which would make for some splaining on our part, otherwise we would be seen as being complicit -- and that would be good or ill depending on who's talking at the moment . . .
3. The targets: Osirak offered one concentrated target to destroy Iraq's entire program. Iran has no such critical vulnerability for its program. Or does it? How good is US or Israeli intelligence? How much redundancy have the Iranians built into their program?
Moreover, if it took four F16s to pull off the Osirak attack, how many would be needed to attack Iran's decentralized program? Is Israel willing to risk a very large number of its aircraft?
4. The defense: how much more capable is Iran's air defense? The Fox program mentioned that Iran possesses some F14s and F4s. These are leftover from the 70s and have probably received no factory-quality maintenance since 1979. This leaves missile defense? Could the Israelis get past Iran's defenses?
Israeli policymakers will have to be comfortable with the answers to all of the above questions before attempting an aerial strike against the Iranian nuclear infrastructure. This option is their last resort. it has too many variables -- too many risks that either cannot be mitigated, or can only be reduced with significant US assistance. The Israelis will only undertake this option if they have lost all confidence in the US to solve the issue by military or diplomatic means.
As to the US options. Fox lists three, and is not explicit as to whether these three were developed by the network, and then shopped around to their experts for comments, or were proposed by the experts themselves. The former seems more likely than the latter. From Fox:
1. Covert Action: The Bush administration might send CIA agents or commandos to sabotage Iran’s nuclear facilities.This plan does have a certain appeal. It is dependent on several things that could make it go dreadfully wrong:
“There were no smoking guns, no fingerprints,” said Walter Russell Mead (search), with the Council on Foreign Relations. “We wouldn’t be faced with that ugly, ugly choice of, we have a war or they get a weapon.”
a. Intelligence: Do we have the information we need to do this? Often, Special Forces are used in a surveillance capacity before they strike. But in this case, passive human surveillance would likely not gather very much of use, except for entry and exit patterns at a given facility, or work routines. The things we need to know in order to know if we have chosen the correct targets are more likely to be gathered through technical collection: phone conversations, gas emissions, radiation. So we need to know these things before we put our guys in. Otherwise, we're putting large numbers of operatives on the ground for no reason.
b. Mass: That's another point: This would be a lot more than just a few SF teams. There are at least a dozen key facilities, each of them the size of a large research campus, and they are scattered over the entire country. Using covert action means using large numbers of people.
c. Surprise: According to the wording above, one of the key advantages to this plan is its untraceable aspect. Sabotage, it is assumed, would be deniable. Perhaps. But Fox mentioned on air that B2 bombers could be launched from stateside and do the job themselves. More on that in a moment.
2. Naval Blockade: U.S. warships would be sent into the Strait of Hormuz (search) to stop the export of Iranian oil. This would pressure the mullahs to give up enriching uranium and allow intrusive inspections.This seems the worst of many options. Costly to implement in terms of ships and time, costly to friendly economies and our own in turn, and has little or no direct effect on the nuke program itself. Would also hurt the Iranian populace a good bit. As we learned from Saddam, the elites always manage to weasel their way to a comfortable life, while everyone else suffers under sanctions. So what advantage at all does this offer? None. Wait . . .
One downside is that Iran is OPEC (search)’s second largest oil producer, so a blockade could also put a stranglehold on the economies of many U.S. allies. Other potential problems are that it may not work fast enough and it would leave Iran’s existing nuclear facilities intact.
“So the question is not whether we could do it. We could. The question is, at what cost?” Mead said.
Nope, still can't think of one.
3. Surgical Strikes: U.S. forces could zero in on Iranian nuclear targets, hitting the country’s highest-risk sites — such as Bushier, Natanz, Arak, Isfahan and a dozen or more others — using cruise missiles launched from land or sea.While Fox seems to have confused some of the details here, this is probably the most likely option the US would actually undertake. Also, what is the goal? Regime change, or destruction of the nuke program? This is the critical question here. This seems a better option for destroying the nuke program.
“We are moving some aircraft carrier groups into the Persian Gulf as we speak," said retired Army Major Gen. Paul Vallely (search). "They will be positioned to launch any aircraft from the Mediterranean Sea, the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf.”
Next, F-117 stealth fighter jets could take out a radar system by firing missiles and anti-aircraft guns at Isfahan or surface-to-air missiles around the Bushier reactor (search). B-2 bombers carrying eight 5,000-pound laser-guided bunker busters would hit buried targets like the Natanz (search) enrichment site or the deep tunnels in Isfahan (search).
Surgical strikes would also aim to hurt Iran's ability to counterattack while limiting civilian casualties, according to Vallely.
“We're not after the population,” he said. “We're not after blowing down bridges anymore. We're trying to disrupt command and control, their ability to use their forces on the ground, their forces in the air, as well as their naval forces. ... Bring them to their knees early. That's the key.”
If you hit at night, then speed to Guam or Diego Garcia to park, and you are stealth, isn't that deniable? Would the Iranians know what had happened? It would probably be obvious to most, but the Bush administration could just release a statement to the effect of "Nuclear weapons are dangerous. Iran obviously didn't take the necessary precautions."
4. All-Out Assault: A huge American military effort, involving hundreds of thousands of troops, would be needed to get “boots on the ground.” But the experts FOX News spoke with consider that to be the least likely scenario.This option is just not going to happen. While the war in Iraq is still going on, asking the Pentagon to invade Iran is like waking up your buddy at 7am the morning after his bachelor party and offering him some Jose Cuervo shots for breakfast. Call up every individual ready reservist, activate every reserve unit and guard unit at the same time. You still have to get them there and then win fast enough to get them home without changing the law. One of the commentators on the show said the chance of this option was 1%. That's a little high.
The U.S. military is already stretched thin with its commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq (Iran is four times the size of Iraq, with almost three times as many people). A ground war could kill thousands, maybe tens of thousands, and the cost could run well into the billions. And assembling a broad coalition would be even more difficult than it was for the Iraq war.
“For one thing, the British don’t sound very willing. And let’s face it, without the British, we don’t have a coalition,” Mead said.
Vallely said that while the United States has the ability to launch a major ground invasion, it wouldn’t have to.
“We can take a country down with just our air assets,” he said. “We don't have put boots on the ground all the time if we're after specific targets.”
Interestingly, this is the option that the left will most likely feel is going to happen any time. More on that later this week . . .
So, to end, here is Chester's gold-plated plan for solving the nuke problem (with the understanding that, as Dwight Eisenhower said of the plan for Normandy, plans are "useless, but planning is invaluable"):
a. Foment revolution in Iran; support protests and publicize the same; support anti-regime organizations, if possible, train them, and if possible, carve out a small portion of the country to use as a safe haven while doing so. If you can't, then build a few camps in Iraq. When the revolution happens, it will have an Iranian face. Publicity is key. There is a lot about protests in Iran in one-off press sources. These need to be featured in mainstream news outlets, Lebanon-style. Iran needs to have a Ukraine, or Lebanon moment. Like the guy standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen, but before the ensuing slaughter. Do all you can to support dissidents, dissent, protests, etc. We here in the blogosphere are happy to help anytime.
b. While you are fomenting revolution, build human intelligence networks. Continue targeting the entire nuke infrastructure for technical collection.
c. Ask your smartest intel guys when they think Iran will have an operable weapon.
d. Halve that estimate.
e. Make that a-day. If the regime has not been transformed via protest and revolution to the extent that Iran will willfully abandon its program by a-day, then the airstrikes start.
f. Airstrikes can be deniable, but it should not be assumed that they are a one-time event. No reason not to hit again if the first wave doesn't do the trick.
There you have it. Simple enough for Napoleon's Corporal to understand.
This is all rough and meant to foster discussion. So go right ahead. We haven't covered Iran in-depth in some time -- since December it seems. Let's have it.
Update: Actually, the last Iran series ended in November. How time flies!
Live-blogging "Iran: The Nuclear Threat" on Fox News
I'm going to do my post-show thoughts in a separate post. So look for it above.
8:54pm Now they've got Senator Biden on. When pressed about whether we should use force, Biden says, "The truth of the matter is that this is calculus, not artithmetic." What this means, who knows.
8:53pm Fox fails to draw the connection between the possibility of democratic revolution and US influence. I've said this before: instigating rebellion used to be the bread and butter of the CIA. The way things are going now, it's not impossible that this kind of activity could be undertaken by the DoD instead.
8:51pm Fox is now examining the possibility of an Iranian democratic revolution.
8:46pm This is happening way too fast for intelligent commentary. I'll hold til the end. Looks like they've got Senator Santorum coming up. They definitely used a lot of their heavy-hitters for this show.
8:43pm They just showed some footage of Amtracs hitting the beach on what looked like Camp Pendleton. Looked like one of my old surf spots there actually. Random stat: Only about 13% give or take of the Camp Pendleton coastline can actually be used for training due to environmental restrictions.
8:38pm Fox examines US options. This portion of the program is summarized on the Fox website at FOXNews.com - Politics - What Are U.S. Military Options in Iran?
8:31pm They're talking to the retired Colonel who led the raid. If I remember right, the flew in a tight formation so that they would look like a civilian plane. Fox notes that Saddam never scrambled his jets at all to respond to the attack and if he had, the Israeli planes would have run out of fuel and crashed in the desert.
Sharon supposedly gave fresh intel to Bush at a recent meeting in Crawford, TX. I'll have some more thoughts on this course of action after the show . . .
8:25pm Fox promises an examination of the concept of an Israeli military strike. This should be interesting . . . looks like they are going to interview a pilot who participated in the Osirak strike in 1981.
8:23pm Fox catches El-Baradei saying that Iran should be given assistance for "security" of its sites. This seems out of context, and it is confusing as to exactly what he means.
8:19pm I've decided to live-blog the special on Fox News right now. More details here. This post will be updated frequently for the next 45 minutes. I'm especially interested in what Fox says about our military options.
4-24-2005 Iran Update From RegimeChangeIran
DoctorZin provides a review of this past week's [4/17-4/23] major news events regarding Iran.
SPECIAL REPORT - Major Unrest in Southern Iran:
- SMCCDI reported violent clashes rocked the southern City of Ahwaz following the rumor that the Islamic regime was intending to diminish the Arab population in the area.
- SMCCDI reported that the unrest continued in cities of the oil rich Khoozestan province and spread to cities, such as, Abadan and Khoramshahr. More reports.
- Reuters reported Iran said some 200 people were arrested in ethnic unrest in its southwest in recent days and the regime closed the offices of the Arab language Al Jazeera television channel, accusing it stirring up trouble.
- Iran Press Service reported unrest continued unabated
in the oil rich Iranian province of Khouzestan, with local and
international sources putting the death toll at about 30 people. The regime denies this, of course.
- Reuters reported that more than 140 people out of 344 arrested in southwest Iran remain in jail.
- Reuters reported that the government organized a "march for peace" in southern Iran after the bloody ethnic unrest.
- Iran Focus reported that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards executed a number of teenage demonstrators in the streets of Ahwaz.
- Radio Free Europe reported that we should expect the people arrested in the Ahvaz unrest to confess on television that they were involved with foreign elements.
- Adnkronos International reported that following the ethnic unrest in southern Iran, the government cut-off internet connections in many cities.
- IranMania.com reported that Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Hassan Rowhani says he may become a presidential candidate if Rafsanjani does not.
- Gooya.com reported that Iranian parliament members want to pay people to vote! Why not bribe everyone?
- Iran Press Service reported that Iran has offered the EU3 to allow the IAEA to install monitoring devices in its uranium enriching facilities.
- Yahoo! News reported EU-Iran talks reopen to make sure Tehran provides air-tight guarantees that it will not make atomic weapons amid agreement by European diplomats that Iran must cease uranium enrichment.
- Mehrnews reported that in the EU3/Iran negotiations, for most European states, "the issue of objective guarantees is not clear to them."
- Turkish Weekly reported that Iran said that the US should observe the nuclear talks between Iran and Europe "from the sidelines."
- AFP reported Iran had not seen enough incentives from the European Union to pave the way for a deal over its controversial nuclear activities.
- The Financial Times reported that Iran's top nuclear official warned that Iran will continue negotiations for a few more months only if the EU3 signal that Iranian ideas on limited uranium enrichment can be the basis of the negotiations.
- FOX NEWS will air a Special Report "Iran The Nuclear Threat - hosted by Chris Wallace Sunday night, April 24th at 9PM PST.
- Janes Defence Weekly reported that inspectors from IAEA believe they have resolved a key question underlying Iran's nuclear program.
- The Los Angeles Times reported that critical components and specialized tools destined for Libya's nuclear weapons program disappeared before arrival in 2003 and international investigators now suspect that they were diverted to another country.
- Reuters reported that Tehran is not cooperating
fully with a probe by the U.N. nuclear watchdog into Iranian officials'
meetings with smugglers who had links to Pakistani atom bomb-maker
Abdul Qadeer Khan.
- The Guardian reported that more than 400 young men and women have volunteered to carry out suicide bombing attacks against Americans.
- FOX News reported on how Iranian nuclear dreams challenge the Bush doctrine.
- Radio Free Europe reported on Tehran's opposition to U.S. Democracy efforts.
- The Associated Press reported that the Bush administration accused Iran of violating the rights of Arabs and other minority groups.
- WorldNetDaily.com reported that Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden is partly responsible for the growing threat the U.S. faces from the mullah regime.
- The Guardian reported that President Bush will receive a Pentagon plan for military strikes on Iran in June.
- Fox News reported on the military options that the U.S. has towards a nuclear Iran.
- The Telegraph reported senior British ministers held meetings with the Iranian government hoping for a deal that could have saved MG Rover.
- Forbes.com reported Russia's largest oil producer, Lukoil, wants to take part in both onshore and offshore oil exploration tenders in Iran.
- Reporters Without Borders reported that Iranian journalist Akbar Ganji, who has served his fifth year in Tehran's Evin prison tomorrow, is seriously ill.
- Al Jazeera reported a
joint statement by the Arab Commission for Human Rights in Paris and
International Justice Organisation in The Hague has expressed concerns
about the unrest in al-Ahwaz.
- IranMania reported that Iran's Guardian Council Secretary Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati said that if the dossiers of some dissidents are referred to courts, no lawyers can defend them and their death sentences are inevitable.
- Amnesty International put out an urgent call for action regarding Iran's arbitrary arrest and torture of seven men and at least 130 others following the recent unrest in Ahvaz.
- The Washington Post published Elahé Sharifpour-Hicks's criticism of Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
- SMCCDI reported an unprecedented protest action took place at Esfahan's Court building.
Employees of the Department of Justice occupied the corridors and
protested against their conditions and the Gender Apartheid Policy
existing in Iran.
- Assreemrooz.com reported one of Iran's most beloved and famous dissidents, Ahmad Batebi is in hiding. It was reported that on a recent furlough from prison he married and went into hiding. Some dispute this.
- SMCCDI also reported a local soccer game lead to protest and clashes.
- Iran va Jahan published Navid Zahedi, an Iranian student activist, who said the UN could be defined in three words; it is a corrupt, inefficient and ineffective body.
- SMCCDI made an urgent for help after their website was shut down. Funds have been raised and they hope to be online soon.
- World Tribune.com reported that Kuwait fears an eco-threat from Iran's reactor and the Saudi's want nuclear technology.
- The Economist is reported that Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is calling on Lebanon's clerics to apply his fatwa to abstain from political office.
- The International Herald and Tribune argued that UN sanctions against Iran will not produce the result the Bush Administration is looking for.
- IranMania reported that Saudi Arabia's Chief of Staff said his country is determined to expand military cooperation with Iran.
- Iran Focus reported that 2.8 million Iraqis had signed a petition sharply criticizing Iran’.
- Newz.in reported that Pakistani
officials would study US laws prohibiting investment in Iranian oil
infrastructure before finalizing the construction of the proposed gas
pipeline from Iran.
reported that the official Iranian news agency Fars published a
statement by Ayatollah Hossein Nouri-Hamedani, one of the Iranian
regime's leading religious authorities, in which he advocates fighting the Jews in order to prepare the ground and to hasten the advent of the Hidden Imam, the Messiah according to Shiite belief.
- Nir Boms criticizes
the EU saying "in the name of promoting democracy and reforms (and
against the pleading of Iranian dissidents), the EU improved its
economic ties with yet another despotic regime."
- Michael Ledeen writes, "We're
in the midst of a great paradigm shift, which, ... involves both a
transformation of the world and of the way we understand it."
- WorldNetDaily published excerpts of Dr. Corsi's new book Atomic Iran. Here are links to the excerpts. Part 1: Sleeper cells in America - Atomic Iran' explains terrorist threats to U.S. homeland. Part 2: Terrorists' weapon of choice - 'Atomic Iran' describes how Tehran could help with bomb. Part 3: Horrific scenario: NYC hit by terrorist nuke - 'Atomic Iran' presents second-by-second description of feared attack.
- Dr. Corsi reported his TV ad about the danger of Iran is now on the air, in 20 markets.
- Iran Institute for Democracy criticized the Bush Administration for not doing more to support the freedom loving people of Iran.
- Henry Kissinger warned that if Iran succeeds in building nuclear weapons, it could touch off an arms race that leads to the end of civilization.
Sheikh Ali Al-Shammari, a Shiite tribal leader from southern Iraq in attendance at the unveiling of the petition signed by 2.8 million Iraqis, sharply criticising neighbouring Iran’s rising meddling in Iraq, said:
as Iraqis who value our independence, feel we must speak out as
strongly as possible against this undeclared war by Iran..."
April 11, 2005
Another Week in Review from RegimeChangeIran
DoctorZin provides a review of this past week's [4/3-4/9] major news events regarding Iran.
The EU3 Negotiations with Iran:
France says "The talks are very fragile but we are progressing."Developments in Iran's Nuclear Program:
The Middle East Media Research Institute has just published an excellent review of the EU3/Iran negotiations, including statements by Iran's military leaders.
The French Ambassador to Tehran said the EU3 is developing a strategy for Iran which involves adopting new regulations that are to be taken as a model in the future.
- The Dawn reports "how Iran was making gas centrifuges at a site in Tehran."
- Iran is paying for the Palestinian attacks aimed at shattering the fragile truce with Israel.
- Hamas and Hizbollah have signed a cooperation accord. Still, Hizbollah is signaling a willingness to discuss the fate of its military wing.
- Mark Hosenbal of Newsweek discussed the administrations mixed signals regarding the MEK. (The MEK are hosting a conference in Washington DC, this next week).
- The US has rejected an IAEA proposal for a five-year, global moratorium on enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium.
- In Iran, the average minimum and monthly wage is $120 a month, forcing some to look for food in city waste-bins.
- Iran-France economic ties will develop at a rapid pace over the next six months.
- Reporters Without Borders deplored a series of new negative developments for press freedom.
- The BBC reported that Iran's parliament barred an investigative journalist from its premises after revealing the MPs' huge pay and bonuses.
- The Christian Post wrote that an Iranian Assemblies of God lay pastor was arrested seven months ago and is facing the death penalty.
- Human Rights Watch said the
upcoming report by Iran's powerful judiciary about the mistreatment and
torture of bloggers and internet journalists in custody must begin a
process of full accountability for serious human rights abuse.
- At least 1,500 anti-government protests, strikes, and clashes took place in Iran during the year that ended on March 20.
- The 70 million people of Iran, an Iranian opposition group inside of Iran, published a warning to western governments that contracts with Iran after June 16 will be null and void.
- SMCCDI reported many violent clashes in several western Iranian cities and then still more, more and more violent clashes.
- Dr. Jerome Corsi will lead a 128-mile walk from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., to promote peaceful, democratic change in Iran.
- Kathryn Jean Lopez, said "Supporting Iranian Youth's Freedom Quest Right Thing to Do."
- Controversial Iranian dissident Mohsen Sazegara joined The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
- A new documentary, Coming Out: The Youth of Iran, provides a look at the youth of Iran and the politics of sexuality. View it here.
- The "Nemazee Vs. SMCCDI/Pirouznia" trial is set to begin, Tuesday April 12, 2005.
The trial is over the question of whether SMCCDI's director slandered a
major Kerry fundraiser by claiming he was promoting the Islamic
Republic of Iran.
- Canada deported a record number of Iranian refugees back to Iran last year. At the same time Canada gave asylum to the Doctor, who attended to Ms. Kazemi (a reporter murdered by the regime); who fled Iran to expose the regime's cruelty.
- A prominent Iraqi daily accused Iran's leadership of dispatching mercenaries to one of Shiite Iraq's holiest cities.
- Israel's president said he shook hands and spoke briefly to the leaders of Syria and Iran at the Vatican funeral of Pope John Paul. Iran's President denies it.
- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko confirmed Ukraine sold nuclear-capable cruise missiles to Iran.
- Dr. Corsi gave an overview of the threat presented by the Iranian regime to the Heritage Foundation. Click here to listen. CSPAN will air the lecture 4/10 7PM EST.
- The American Thinker points out how the international community is ignoring the plight of the women of Iran.
- Michael Ledeen writing about the Kazemi murder in Iran reminds us that the
brutal treatment of Iranian women by the mullahcracy is a daily
occurrence, not an isolated case. The adds, saving the women of Iran
may save us.
Head of Iranian Nuclear Negotiating Team Sirus Nasseri said the U.S. and the EU should "get used to the idea of a nuclear Iran."
April 5, 2005
Week in Review from RegimeChangeIran
DoctorZin provides a review of this past week's [3/27-4/2] major news events regarding Iran.
The EU3 Negotiations with Iran:
- The EU3 considered letting Iran keep a limited nuclear enrichment program that could be used to make bombs. But fortunately, they later rejected the idea.
- Iran was furious over Condi's statement that we need to close the NTP uranium enrichment loophole.
- Iran allocated $2.5 billion to obtain three nuclear warheads last year according to an exiled opposition group.
- Iran put on a media show of the uranium enrichment facility in Natanz with a guide tour by President Khatami. The US responded.
- US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice released the DOS report Supporting Human Rights and Democracy: The U.S. Record 2004 - 2005. The excerpt on Iran.
- Iranians boycott Iran's Islamic Republic day.
- Sporadic clashes follow a more limited celebration in Iran. Plus more unrest.
- Eli Lake reports that Iranian dissidents are asking for aid from President Bush, not just words.
- Iranian Doctor fled Iran to tell the truth about the death of Canadian reporter Kazemi. As a result, Canada's PM considers new action against Iran. Iran Press News tells the rest of the story.
- ABC's Nightline broadcast an interview of students inside of Iran. An Iranian student who recently escaped Iran published a rebuke of the broadcast's shameful propaganda for the Iranian regime.
- The Washington Post reported, "Past Arguments Don't Square With Current Iran Policy," in which Dafna Linzer alleges President Ford reluctantly offered Iran nuclear technology, but the Weekly Standard tells the rest of the story.
- Europeans say Iran is not a threat for nearly six out of ten EU3 adults according to a recent poll.
- Pakistani centrifuges being sent to IAEA at Iran's request.
- Egyptian court rules, Mubarak was the target of an Iranian assassination plot. Iran denies it. Iran blames Israel.
- Charles Krauthammer, says it's time to break the true Axis Of Evil (Syrian and Iran).
- FrontPageMag.com has published a symposium on the "nuclear outlaws."
- Dr. Jerome Corsi released his TV ad: Iran Nukes NYC in which New York City is destroyed by Iranian supported terrorists. You can view the ad now.
- Michael Ledeen points out that the MSM doesn’t want to get that the people of Iran want a regime change. ABC's Nightline proves he is right.
- AEI held a Web Event: Is It a Revolution or What? You can view it online here.
- The Power and Interest News Report (PINR) reports that Iran will attempt to fill the vacuum left by the Syrian troops returning home.
- Lawrence F. Kaplan reports administration hawks have insisted on a drop-dead date for the EU3/Iran talks, a few months after Iran's elections in June.
- Richard Clarke is concerned that Iran will either get the bomb or trade concessions soon and that in either case will be stronger.
Iranians were in the streets chanting:
"Death to those who kill our freedom-fighters. Death to a puppet parliament; Death to armed despots...
March 28, 2005
Latest Week in Review From RegimeChangeIran
DoctorZin provides a review of this past week's [6/20-3/26] major news events regarding Iran.
This week was the Persian New Year. Happy Nowrooz to our Persian readers!The EU3 Negotiations with Iran:
- The EU3/Iran "final" negotiations are not final. The talks will continue.
- The EU is studying an Iranian Plan for small-scale uranium enrichment.
- El Baradei wants the US to give Iran "security assurances." The US brushes the idea off.
- The MEK reported Iran is secretly enriching uranium.
- Iran has successfully tested its new liquid fuel Shihab 3-A missile with greater range and payload capability.
- Iran is developing a secret "nuclear university."
- A Top US Diplomat warned Iran to stop interfering in Lebanon.
- Condi's latest thoughts on Iran, in an LA Times interview.
- Stephen Hayes seems to be saying Europe has agreed to support real democracy in Iran, if the negotiations fail?
- Three US Naval Carrier groups are converging on the Middle East.
- Pakistan's Daily Times revealed Condi's pressure to get more information what AQ Khan supplied Iran is getting results.
- There were reports of massive demonstrations in Iran following the Iranian win over Japan in an important soccer match in Tehran. The demonstrations are dispersed in neighborhoods all across Iran. The demonstrations were similar to those in the past for such events but the reports of gun fire are a newer development. We are not yet near a tipping point, yet.
- Iranian dissident, Mr. Abbas Amir Entezam, (one of the world’s longest political prisoners) called for a national movement for referendum.
- The LA Times is reported on the efforts of the CIA and FBI in Los Angeles to find friends and enemies.
- Western nations are helping Iran stockpile high tech small weapons.
- Britain has donated bullet proof vests to the Iranian security forces.
- Is the Christian Science Monitor preparing to endorse Rafsanjani for president? UPI does something similar and so does The Financial Times.
Is the western media willingly ignorant or just desperate? Oh, that
they would support the people of Iran in their quest for liberty and
democracy instead of selling them out.
- Pakistan is preparing to hand over a centrifuge to UN inspectors who are investigating Iran.
- A revolution in Kyrgyzstan? Yes.
- The Wall Street Journal is reporting evidence of nuclear ties between Iran and India.
- Turkey was does not want Iran to become a nuclear power, says Gunduz Aktan.
- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told US Congressmen that despite months of press reports to the contrary: "Israel has no intention of attacking Iran..."
- The Ayn Rand Institute observes Iran's problems the west are not economic.
- GlobalSecurity.org explores Iran's reason for purchasing the 12 X-55 cruise missiles.
- The International Crisis Group published a report Iran in Iraq: How Much Influence? Dan Darling reviewed it here.
- The American Enterprise Institute has published a list of important reports on Iran.
- Arnaud de Borchgrave reminds us of the Iranian Mullahs view of America, in their own words.
- Should we be concerned that US military planners are dusting off their military plans for an attack on Iran? Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu says no.
- The Wall Street Journal said it right: The root cause of the nuclear crisis with Iran is not a shortage of "economic incentives"; it is the nature of the regime.
- OpenDemocracy.net gives eight reasons why the US won't go to war with Iran and then why we will.
- Dr. Jerome Corsi's new book Atomic Iran
is now in the bookstores. Due to the Terry Shiavo coverage his
appearance on Hannity and Colmes was pre-empted but he is now scheduled
to appear this next week. His powerful TV ad is scheduled for release
this next Monday. Look for it here soon.
Mohammed El Baradei sold out the Iranian people:"Iran must feel assured that no one is thinking of attacking or provoking regime change..."
March 21, 2005
Week in Review from Regime Change Iran
DoctorZin provides a review of this past week's [6/13-3/19] major news events regarding Iran.
The EU3 Negotiations with Iran:
- An Iranian spokesman offered a strange deal, US/Iran split the profits on Iran's nuclear program.
- Iran makes it clear that economic incentives will never induce them to give up its nuclear enrichment programs.
- Iran wants the US to unblock frozen Iranian assets, lift sanctions and stop "hostile measures.
- Iran says the US is "hallucinating" if it thinks it will stop its nuclear enrichment program for trade incentives.
- The LA Times is reporting that the EU3 do not have a deadline for the negotiations, quoting EU3 negotiators as saying "so who is in a hurry?"
- The Wall Street Journal outlines why the US is convinced Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
- The Sunday Times of London is reported that Israel has been training for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
- President Bush said that Iran should embrace democracy.
- The US catches China sending WMD technology to Iran.
- Gallup looks at public opinion on military action towards US threats.
- US National security adviser Stephen Hadley says the US didn't offer Iran any trade concessions.
- Tuesday was an important festival in Iran, known as Chahar Shanbeh Suri [Festival of Fire]. This festival has been an opportunity for people to demonstrate and voice their opposition to the regime. I have been told it was the largest celebration since the revolution.
- Here is a collection of these reports: Initial report, Iran Press Service, SMCCDI, The Corner, Iran Focus, Blog Iran, and Iran Press News.
- Reuters finally published a report on the festival of fire demonstrations, but reports it as smaller than the reports I have received and with no mention of the anti-regime aspects of it. The false report drew anger from Michael Ledeen. Photos.
- National Geographic explains the importance of the Iranian holiday. Iran Press Service does the same. President Bush offers his own holiday greeting.
- The controversial Iranian dissident, Mohsen Sazegara is coming to the US to push US lawmakers to support his version of a referendum in Iran. Dr. Iman Foroutan responds with caution..
- Dr. Jerome Corsi, author of the Atomic Iran, launched his websites on Iran!
- Reporters without Borders appeals to the UN Human Rights Commission to sanction Iran.
- A united group of Iranian expatriate organizations formed the "Coalition of Liberation" the most diverse group of anti-regime forces since the Shah was deposed in 1979. They have big plans. They also wrote a letter to the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights calling for Iran's expulsion from the UN.
- Europe is selling like mad to Iran since the US can't.
- The Ukraine now admits it sold 12 cruise missiles designed to carry nuclear payloads to Iran.
- India pushes ahead with Iran/India pipeline against US objections.
- King Abullah II of Jordan said Iran was under pressure until Europe came to the rescue.
- Pakistan has agreed to hand over nuclear parts to the IAEA in an investigation of Iran's nuclear program.
- The American Thinker argues why military leaders are hesitant to fire on innocents in today's world.
- Dan Darling published a part two of his analysis of US policy options on Iran.
- Reuel Marc Gerecht says "Don't Fear the Shiites."
- Robert Kaplan thinks democracy in the Middle East brings with it non-stop turbulence.
- The Center for Security Policy warns that Bush's incentive to Iran is likely to confuse the people of Iran seeking real democracy.
- Amir Taheri takes a look at the West's lack of support for the Arab Street.
- I was interviewed on Right Talk Radio's program, the Inquisition. To hear the broadcast click here.
US Secretary of State Condolezza Rice said about Iran:
"...we don't want to do anything that legitimizes this government -- the mullahs -- in a direct way. And so there isn't any indication here of "warming of relations."
March 14, 2005
Week in Review from Regime Change Iran
DoctorZin provides a review of this past week's [3/6-3/12] major news events regarding Iran.
The EU3 Negotiations with Iran:
- In response to the US offer of trade incentives, Iran offers to make just a little enriched uranium.
- The EU3 finally make it clear, failure of the EU3/Iran talks will lead to the UN Security Council.
- The Iranians said they don't want just trade, they want security guarantees.
- The US offered Iran trade incentives in exchange for ending their nuclear enrichment programs.
- The Iranians rejected it.
- Iran flatly refused to end its nuclear enrichment programs.
- Iran said US presence in the EU3/Iran negotiations is out of the question.
- Pakistan confirmed AQ Khan sold centrifuges to Iran.
- Iranian officials confirmed they have built secret underground nuclear facilities designed to withstand attack.
- Iran finally admitted that it kept its nuclear program secret.
- Teachers were protesting in Tehran, it turned violent. Other workers staged their own protest, and it also turned violent. Still more clashes occurred when young people attempted to celebrate the coming "fire fest." This is but a prelude to the actual celebration to take place next Tuesday night. Plus 1000 women protested in Tehran.
- A recent poll inside of Iran found that 44% of young Iranians want to leave Iran, plus other interesting findings.
- Iranian students greeted a presidential hopeful with signs of "referendum yes, elections no." The report claims the candidate didn't find a single display of support in the crowd.
- Blogging is now the main news and analyst medium for Iranians.
- An open letter to the ruling clerical leaders was published and signed by 565 Iranian dissidents
. The letter denounced the incompetence of the regime and called for
real democracy in Iran. The signatories include activists, scholars,
journalists, artists, students, intellectuals and politicians.
- France and then Germany canceled Iranian protest marches against EU appeasement of the Iranian government.
- Pejman asked why are we surprised that the people of the Middle East want to be free?
- 56 Iranian protesters refused to leave an aircraft in Belgium yesterday calling for the EU to end its support of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They were eventually removed, but praised by many. I have included a few interesting photos of the demonstration.
- A major coalition of Iran expatriates announced they are gathering Sunday to launch the long awaited "Iranian Opposition Council."
Tens of respected leaders and well known activists representing various
Iranian political organizations, ranging from republican to monarchist,
will be traveling from all parts of the U.S. and European cities to
participate. I will be in attendance.
- Debka reported that Syria had invoked their military cooperation pact with Iran. Iranian troops and equipment were reported to be flying into Damascus. I have seen no confirmation nor denial of this.
- Michael Ledeen reminded us that the ruling Mullahs of Iran want to destroy us, but their days are numbered. Michael also called for US support of the revolutionaries in Iran and Syria.
- Ken Timmerman outlined why no deal is possible with Iran. Ken is also the author of a new book to be released soon, "Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran."
- Jerry Corsi's new book Atomic Iran is about to create a fire storm of controversy among US policy makers. Plus he also invited us to have a sneak preview of his Iran Freedom Foundation website.
- Ruel Marc Gerecht provided an overview of the Middle East situation after the events in Lebanon, with recommendations for US policy.
"The Iranian regime should listen to the concerns of the world, and listen to the voice of the Iranian people, who long for their liberty
and want their country to be a respected member of the international
community. We look forward to the day when Iran joins in the hopeful
changes taking place across the region. We look forward to the day when the Iranian people are free."
March 6, 2005
Week in Review from Regime Change Iran
DoctorZin provides a review of this past week's [2/27-3/5] major news events regarding Iran.
The news on Iran has been coming fast and furious. Here are the headlines and a few of items you may have missed.
The EU3 Negotiations with Iran:
- Iran warns that it will make atomic fuel if they are sent to UN Security Council.
- The EU3 criticize Iran for not keeping it's pledge to suspend all sensitive parts of its nuclear program.
- Iran demands that the EU3 compromise and lectures the US to get used to the idea of a nuclear Iran.
- Europe Should Be Careful What It Wishes for in Iran, says Ruel Marc Gerecht.
- Iran has now acquired all it needs to produce nuclear weapons.
- DigitalGlobe photo of Iran's heavy water reactor shows it is nearing completion.
- Iran wants to test it's nuclear enrichment equipment, in violation of the spirit of the EU3 agreement.
- Iran's heavy water reactor nearly complete? If so, once operational, Iran be able to produce a plutonium bomb in a year.
- Iran's secret nuclear storage tunnels are reportedly 1/2 mile below ground.
- The Bushehr nuclear plant has serious technical problems.
- Iran rejects the IAEA's latest request to inspect the Parchin Military base that other accuse are developing nuclear weapons materials.
- In 1987, AQ Khan offered Iran nuclear a starter kit for nuclear enrichment.
- Iran and Russia finally sign their deal for nuclear fuel. But the deal is dangerously full of holes.
- The regime has finally given up on trying to make women where black.
- Strikes and protests on the rise inside of Iran.
- 150 Students protest in Tehran.
- The Mullahs are once again assassinating foreign dissidents.
- Iran may have 40,000 agents in Iraq on its payroll.
- Russia denies having Russian troops in Iran, sort of.
- Pakistan would remain neutral in the case of a U.S. attack against Iran.
- After massive public protests the Lebanese government resigned.
- The US is calling for guarantees in the EU3/Iran talks.
- The US wants to fund Iranian activists, the question is how.
- Bush is considering offering Iran participation in the WTO.
- Chief US delegate to the IAEA charges Iran of "cynically" pursuing nuclear weapons.
- VOA to expand their news and commentary into Iran.
- Dan Darling tries to help us to understand US policy options on Iran.
- Iran threatens an attack will risk all Middle East oil.
- Russia is arming the "Axis of outcasts," in the Middle East and Latin America.
- General Abizaid says a nuclear Iran may invite an attack by others.
- A top Israeli bomber reportedly says Iran is "within reach."
- The American Thinker has published a report of preparations for possible military action the US is preparing against Iran.
- Must See Iranian TV, courtesy of MemriTV.org (thanks to Frontpagemag.com and Iran va Jahan).
- Dr. Jerry Corsi has pre-sold 150,000 copies of his new book Atomic Iran.
- DoctorZin says "don't worry" about a possible shift in US policy towards Iran.
- Mark Steyn says the Arabs' Berlin wall has fallen.
- We are living in a revolutionary age, says Michael Ledeen.
- The Department of State has issued an important but length report, Iran - Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 2004. I have excerpted portions of it here.
Does Bill Clinton feel ideologically at home with Iran? Speaking of Iran he said:
"In every single election, the guys I identify with got two-thirds to 70 percent of the vote. There is no other country in the world I can say that about, certainly not my own." and much more...
February 20, 2005
Fallujah: The Music Video
Hat-tip to American Digest for hosting this video by a Tank/Infantry/Engineer Team that fought together in Fallujah. My favorite scene is the Mic-Lic. nearly two-thousand pounds of C4 all being towed by a small rocket and probably clearing a path through a booby-trapped street. Awesome.
Iran Week in Review from www.regimechangeiran.com
[I've made a deal with Dr. Zin at the Regime Change Iran blog for this week's roundup of Iran news and analysis to be double-posted here. Regime Change Iran is an excellent blog and is growing in stature in the blogosphere.]
DoctorZin provides a brief week in review on the major news events affecting Iran.
The Iranian Threat:
- An important distinction has appeared between the US and some of the Europeans. While President Bush is speaking the language of freedom and human rights (traditional European concerns) Germany’s Schroeder speaks of stability and is silent on freedom.
- The Europeans are pushing on recognition of the state of Israel, but Iran has flatly rejected these demands. On the issue of Iran’s heavy water reactor
(which are universally used for production of plutonium), Iran is
rejecting any EU3 discussions on closing this facility, saying they want to be an exporter of enriched uranium.
- Once again, the WTO has rejected Iran’s application for membership. France wants the US to reconsider its opposition to it.
- Bush makes it clear to the Europeans that military action against is not our first choice.
More evidence of a growing popular struggle inside of Iran.
- Iran will produce an atomic bomb exclaims a Hezbollah leader.
- This week the media was focused on a mysterious blast reported in southern Iran many suspected was the result of an unmanned drone attack. Iran denies it was attacked. Chester has some interesting observations.
- Iran tried to call for a “common front” to confront the US efforts in the region. It fell on deaf ears and even Syria tried to back away from it.
- A nuclear fuel deal with Russia is imminent. But Iran has begun mining uranium ore for a new facility. They already of 500 tons of uranium ore and will not be dependent on Russia for its uranium fuel.
- Israel claims that Iran will know how to build their own nuclear bombs in less than 6 months.
- New satellite images show tunnel construction at the Esfahan facility.
- U.S. General reminds us that Iran is a threat in the Persian Gulf.
- There were more anti-regime demonstrations in Iran this week. But as a result, the Mullahs retaliated by cutting off the offending city's natural gas. It is still winter...
- Proof that Iranians no longer support their regime can be seen in their refusal to participate in their elections. In the last election, only 12% bothered to vote.
Much of the world pretends Iran is a democracy. At the time, of the
last election, the world media largely failed to report this story.
Many claim the Iranians refused to vote because they are not free to
elect leaders of their own choosing (Iran’s religious clerics approve
the candidates they want the people to choose from and thus keep a
strangle hold on the government). Iran’s next presidential election is scheduled to occur on June 17th. This time when the people of Iran refuse to participate in these phony elections the world will be watching.
- There is further evidence that Iranians are largely pro US and pro Bush. A sample quote from this report: Tehran University student who said,"The Iranian people support President Bush because he supports our cause. As long President Bush stands with the Iranian people, the Iranian people will stand with him."
- Roger L Simon, film producer, writer, and popular blogger can now add revolutionary to his resume. He has come out in support of the Iranian people’s quest for a referendum
on their form of government. This blog and others are currently
preparing a major blogosphere campaign in support of this. Stay tuned.
- UPI produced some interesting facts about Iranian bloggers.
- Iranians appear to be increasingly convinced that the US is going to cause a regime change in Iran. IPS weighs in as well.
- Michael Ledeen, writes: These Are Revolutionary Times. Faster Please, President Bush.
Odd and Ends:
- Who is Ayatollah Sistani of Iraq? The Times provide a glimpse of this important US ally and his website.
- Jihadism appears to be in retreat in Iraq.
- Is freedom on the move in Lebanon?
The murder this past week of former Lebanonese prime minister Rafiq
Hariri has put the spotlight on Syria and its meddling in Lebanon. The
evidence appears to point to Syria as the culprit in the murder. Some
are speculating that Hariri was preparing a coup to oust the Syrians
from the country. Reports are coming in of popular demonstrations in the streets of Lebanon for Syria to leave.
If this movement gains momentum and Syria is forced out, it will
seriously weaken this ally of Iran. – See the report from the Belmont Club and Amir Taheri.
- Maureen Dowd of the NY Times drove some Iranians crazy this past week when she denied that Iran is a totalitarian state.
- The American Thinker published a report of Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, in his own words. It is long but well worth reading.
- More Iranian TV Video Clips - MemriTV.org.
- And finally, I have produced a list of interesting quotes of week.
February 16, 2005
The Technical Collection Game and the Strange Reports from Iran
How to reconcile seemingly conflicting information emerging from Iran -- or rather from the space wherein lies the US-Iranian relationship?
The story started in the Washington Post on Sunday. The Post gave a valiant attempt to throw the story in favor of the Iranians, noting that since they decided not to engage the US drones, the US was unable to gather information about the Iranian air defenses:
"It was clear to our air force that the entire intention here was to get us to turn on our radar," the official said.This is all true -- if the Iranians didn't turn on their air defenses, then the US probably didn't gather much new info about them.
That tactic, designed to contribute information to what the military calls an "enemy order of battle," was used by the U.S. military in the Korean and Vietnam wars, against the Soviets and the Chinese, and in both Iraq wars.
"By coaxing the Iranians to turn on their radar, we can learn all about their defense systems, including the frequencies they are operating on, the range of their radar and, of course, where their weaknesses lie," said Thomas Keaney, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and executive director of the Foreign Policy Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
But it did not work. "The United States must have forgotten that they trained half our guys," the Iranian official said. After a briefing by their air force three weeks ago, Iran's national security officials ordered their forces not to turn on the radar or come into contact with the drones in any way.
"Our decision was: Don't engage," the Iranian official said. Leaving the radar off deprives U.S. forces of vital information about the country's air defense system, but it also makes it harder for Iran to tell if an attack is underway.
But to imply an advantage for Iran here is misleading. The US has infiltrated Iranian airspace with no response. Moreover, either the Iranians took their sweet time in noticing, or the US started small and slowly escalated the extent and coverage of the infiltration. The Post mentions that the US began in April of 2004, but has had aircraft over Iran as recently as December, 2004 and January of 2005. But the Iranian National Security Council didn't decide not to engage them until January, 2005?
Moreover, whether information about air defenses was a goal or not, the US has no doubt gathered a great deal of useful intelligence of a variety of kinds. One of the best ways to test an enemy's defense is to go through a series of posturing moves designed to test his reactions. In so doing, the US would ratchet up its activity to a feverish pace, then quit with no warning, then hit it again in different spots, then back off slowly, etc. By performing intelligence collection in unexpected ways, one can systematically test the defenses of one's quarry. Perhaps nothing was gained about air defenses, but there are many other things of interest. When combined with signals collection, for example, these incursions would be very useful for mapping command and control networks. Who calls whom when a drone appears? Who does that person then call?
A betting man would place good money that Iran's airspace isn't the only place where such incursions and challenges are taking place . . . testing Iran's naval activity around Bushehr would be my first guess . . . and US subs would be the vehicle for doing so.
But it gets even more interesting . . .
Note this Newsmax article, Iran Okayed U.S. Drone Flights:
A senior Iranian diplomat tells NewsMax that a recent report in the Washington Post that the U.S. had been spying on their nuclear facilities using drones was not news to them - the Iranian government had quietly given the U.S. the OK to make the overflights.Strange, eh? More:
NewsMax has leaned that the U.S. surveillance flights came up dry and may have since been suspended, at least temporarily.
Some suspect that Tehran halted activity and sanitized sites where weapons research was underway before the U.S. began flying the drones.
So, rather than exacerbating tensions between Washington and Tehran, the flights have actually undercut any Bush administration moves against Iran, at least for the time being.
Perhaps the Iranian official is just playing the Farsi version of the CYA game. But if he's honest . . . why would the US telegraph its plans to overfly with drones?
To map this out, the Bush Administration asked Tehran for permission for the overflights, presumably from a position of "since you have nothing to hide anyway . . ." If I was Iranian and wanted to hide what I was doing, I would immediately begin a frenzy of activity. This activity could then be watched by satellites before any drones even started flying. After discovering that we were about to begin the flights, how did vehicle traffic change around key sites? What phone calls were made to whom? What equipment was moved, and to where? And at day or night? And by whom? How long did any displacement take? A wealth of information could have been gained merely be releasing that we were about to start flying, and then to watch and see what happened . . .
NewsMax reports that the flights found little of consequence. Why would this be released? Whether true or not, it certainly serves to embolden the Iranians, who have been led to believe that the flights found nothing, and that the flights have ceased. So perhaps they have, but they've been replaced by other means of collection to see the consequences.
I seriously doubt that the US made the move to put several drones over Iranian airspace all the while thinking that the Iranians would never notice . . .
How might the Iranians react next time?
Another NewsMax story, Iran Now Threatens to Shoot Down U.S. Drones, notes thus:
Iran's intelligence chief on Wednesday accused the United States of flying spy drones over its nuclear sites and threatened to shoot down the unmanned surveillance crafts.More:
Intelligence Minister Ali Yunesi comments backed a report in The Washington Post on Sunday that quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying the drones have been flying over Iran for nearly a year to seek evidence of nuclear weapons programs.
In December, the Iranian air force was ordered to shoot down any unknown flying objects. At the time, there were reports in Iranian newspapers that Iran had discovered spying devices in pilotless planes its air defense force had shot down.So here, we learn that the Iranians claim to have shot down some drones -- which refutes the Post's assertion that nothing was gained for the US by this venture. I think it is more likely that the Iranians did not shoot anything down, but that this is bluster meant for their own domestic consumption . . .
"If any of the bright objects come close, they will definitely meet our fire and will be shot down. We possess the necessary equipment to confront them," Yunesi said.
How might the US execute a collection mission next? If the Iranians refuse to shoot drones, then the US will probably begin to play games with manned aircraft. Since we effectively own the airspace over the Persian Gulf, and Iraq, and Afghanistan, one tactic would be to increase significantly the number and tempo of flights of manned aircraft getting very close to the Iranian border, so that the Iranians will become desensitized to the US presences, and then . . . slower to react when the planes don't just get near the border, but break it in the midst of their targeting runs . . .
February 5, 2005
Blogosphere 1, Iran 0
The Regime Change Iran blog reports Iran's planned festivities at the Bethesda, Marriott entitled "Twenty Sixth Anniversary of the Glorious Victory of the Islamic Revolution and Death to America Day," have been cancelled by Marriott, who discovered that it is illegal to do business with Iran. The blogosphere had a big hand in this.
January 31, 2005
The Latest from George Friedman -- "The Three Power Game"
In his latest article, George Friedman asks:
First, once Iraq holds elections, what will Iran's policy be toward Iraq's new Shiite government? Second, since the Shiite-Sunni split is fundamental to the Islamic world, how will the United States manage and manipulate that divide?He answers thus:
For Iran, the best outcome of the war would be a pro-Iranian regime in Baghdad. The second best outcome would be chaos in Iraq. Both provide Iran with what it needs: a relatively secure frontier and an opportunity to shape events to the west. The third -- and least acceptable -- outcome would be a neutral Iraq. Neutrality is highly changeable.There seems to be a fourth possible -- and worst for Iran -- outcome: a stable, US-friendly regime in Iraq.
Friedman has organized Iran's outcomes into these categories because of his take on Iran's strategic goals:
The Saudis cannot afford chaos in Iraq or for the road from Iran to be wide open. They will increase their dependence on the United States and will be forced to do whatever they can to reduce the rebellion in the Sunni region. A united Iraq under a Shiite-dominated coalition government will secure Iran's western frontiers, but will deny it the opportunity to dominate the region. A divided Iraq will give Iran secure borders, an opportunity for domination and serious responses from Arab states. It will drive the Arabs into the Americans' arms. Things could get dicey fast for the Iranians. The United States is letting them know -- via the convenient conduit of Seymour Hersh and The New Yorker magazine -- that it is ready to push back hard on Iran. U.S. President George W. Bush directly warned the Iranians on Jan. 26 to stay out of the Iraqi elections. The Iranians are signaling back that they are a nuclear power -- which is not true yet.Looking at the flip side of this logic, what are the fundamental strategic decisions for the US to make? Friedman notes:
The Iranians have a fundamental strategic decision to make. They can work with the United States and secure their interests. They can undermine the United States and go for the big prize: domination of the Persian Gulf. The first is low risk, the second incredibly high risk.
Behind this all there is a complex three-power game. There is the United States, in a war with factions of the Sunni.This much is true. The Iraqi terrorist insurgency is largely Sunni. But is the war on terrorism restricted solely to Sunnis? Is the Bush administration pursuing a policy of detente with Iran? The Iranians are Shi'ite, and their Pasdaran has long supported Hizballah (Party of God -- also Shi'ites). Hizballah are certainly war on terror material . . . does it seem wise to think that the US will discriminate against threats based on their religious origin? Don't Bush's latest remarks in his inaugural imply that whatever his choices with Iran, he would prefer it were a more fully-functioning democracy?
The US is engaged in a game of long-term modernization and alliance construction in the Middle East. it is creating new nation and state-based centers of power to replace religious centers of power. The new centers are allied with the US: Afghanistan, a nation-state, replaces the Taliban and the Northern Alliance, which were ethnically and religiously-based. In Iraq, a Sunni and tribe-based power center is replaced with a Shi'ite and Kurd-dominated nation-state (it's a gamble, but can certainly succeed). Whereas the old power centers in the Islamic world looked like this:
1. Sunni Wahabbi dictatorship in Afghanistan
2. Sunni Wahabbi dictatorship in Saudi Arabia
3. Shi'ite clerical dictatorship in Iran
4. Ba'athist Sunni secular dictatorship in Iraq
5. Ba'athist Sunni secular dictatorship in Syria,
the new power centers are so:
1. Aghani-nation state.
2. Mixed ethnicity Iraqi nation-state.
3. Sunni Wahabbi terrorist insurgency in Sunni Triangle, Iraq
If the insurgency is defeated, no longer will the populations of Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia see their world solely in terms of religious blocs. National blocs, mainly mixed-ethnicity nations, will have replaced them.
The goal of the Bush administration is to redefine the Middle East in terms of nation-states rather than religion. The key question is, how badly does a nuclear Iran muddle those long-term plans? This is why the question of whether the US sees itself as solely fighting the Sunnis is so important. If the US also sees itself as wishing to influence modernizing change with the Shi'ite portions of the Middle East as well, then a nuclear Iran could scuttle those plans entirely.
The strategic choices vis a vis Iran then become:
1. Let Iran keep its current state of security and influence in order to stabilize Iraq, the goal being that a non-religiously defined Iraq will spark Iran not to religiously define itself. Iran may shortly become a nuclear power. This is low-risk, low-reward.
2. Pressure Iran to keep its influence out of Iraq, and to end its nuclear weapons program. The outcome would be a stable Iraq, and a non-nuclear Iran ready for its regime to be destabilized in the future. This is low-risk, medium reward.
3. Attempt the destruction of the Iranian nuclear weapons program in order to stop the possibility of a nuclear Iran from interfering with long-term democratization and the goal of redefining the Middle East in terms of nations rather than religions. This is high-risk, medium/high reward. The very act of military action in Iran could cause a backlash from those portions of its society which would find themselves in the vanguard of any democratic movement. It has been widely noted that the Iranian nuclear weapons program is seen as valuable to the regime even by those who detest it, because their nationality is stronger than their democratic desire.
4. Attempt the destruction of the Iranian nuclear weapons program and the replacement of the Iranian regime in order not to allow a nuclear Iran to interfere with long term democratization and the goal of redefining the Middle East in terms of nations rather than religions. In fact, to speed up the democratization and redefinition. This is very high risk, very high reward.
The US cannot allow Iran's sphere of influence to increase, giving Iran larger influence internally in Iraq and significantly destabilizing the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia.
It seems that a nuclear Iran is a serious setback to regional strategic goals for the United States and US statements have indicated that senior decisionmakers feel as such.